“In 1895 Oscar Wilde was famously imprisoned for engaging in a sexual relationship with another man. News of the artist's charge and sentence spread like wildfire throughout the world, eliciting gossip and sparking new waves of intolerance. In Red River Pass, a secluded Nevada town, local society's revolt against Wilde's indiscretion lands at the doorstep of Mildred Dunlap and her partner, Edra. The women live on the outskirts of town in relative seclusion, for the purpose of harboring their relationship from the judgment of others; Mildred also hopes their distance will protect Edra from an unthinkable past trauma. Mildred has dealt with persecution all her life, but as the gossipmongers feed ravenously on the controversy brought on by Wilde's conviction she fears her deepest love and greatest secret may be discovered - and ruined. As Mildred and Edra endeavor to fortify the walls that separate themselves from the hatred of the intolerant world, they discover the strength of love and the beauty of unexpected friendship.
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is a novel encompassing many themes, with perhaps the most apparent being an examination of hate and intolerance, and the astonishingly powerful affect it has on the lives of others. Author Paulette Mahurin fearlessly depicts the harsh realities of such harmful behavior and travels through the depth of love's ability to hold fast against persecution. Weaving history with fiction, she brings Wilde into the story in spirit, using his famous imprisonment as a foundation upon which she builds her story. The novel plays out vividly and with poignant drama, wrenching the reader's heart in its moment of stark helplessness while inspiring hope through the triumph of friendship. As social history dictates, tolerance for Mildred and Edra's plight comes from a saddening minority, but Mahurin achieves a sensation of heart-filled courage in the open-minded characters. In her villainess, the vicious Josie Purdue, Mahurin has boldly created a character deeply rooted toward persecution and the encouragement of hatred.
Another theme that struck me while reading the novel was the depiction of women and the diversity of their own tolerance as a sex. Josie leads a group of local busybodies who thrive on spreading rumors, and whose gossiping brings about terrible consequences for Mildred and Edra, ultimately poisoning the entire town and bringing about unforeseeable tragedy. Their animosity is countered in Mildred, a strong and fierce portrayal of independence and compassion, as well as the more reclusive Edra, in whom Mahurin explores the depth of woman's ability to overcome her own vulnerability. Between the two heroines the author ultimately achieves an examination of woman's capacity to triumph over all obstacles for the sake of love and friendship.
The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap delivers its message strongly and with a force that will grip the reader's emotions while the story's most worthy characters inspire us with the belief that the action of opening our minds is synonymous with the action of opening our hearts.
(Review © Casee Marie, originally published on November 19, 2012 at LiteraryInklings.com. I received a copy of the book for the purpose of review.) ”