I had been looking forward to reading this book for some time and was not disappointed when I did. In fact, I was hooked by the time I reached the end of the prologue. After that it was very hard to put down.
Mildred Dunlap lives in a small town in Nevada with her cousin Edra. Since childhood both have felt a fondness for each other which has now blossomed into a full-blown, if secret, relationship. At the time of the opening chapter (late nineteenth century), Oscar Wilde has just been imprisoned for ‘committing acts of gross indecency’ (homosexual activities) and the world has been alerted by telegraph. The news, inevitably, reaches the small town of Red River Pass where Mildred and Edra live. Forever quick to judge, and mete out punishment and derision, the resident gossipmongers have a field day with this. Mildred becomes alarmed at the pure hatred and prejudice projected by the tittle-tattles upon their hearing this piece of news. All her life they have ignored her kindness and generosity, and instead have cruelly focused upon her appearance and wealth. If they were to find out her secret as well, she knew life would be unbearable for both her and Edra. As a result she sets out to mislead the gossips with her own plot, which has surprising consequences.
This carefully and beautifully crafted story is not just about the relationship between two women, it goes far deeper. It is a story about inherent ignorance and discrimination in general. It is also a story about tolerance, love, friendship and trust. Mahurin writes her characters in superbly and the reader is inclined to empathise with the more sympathetic characters of Gus, Charlie, Mildred and Edra, and to despise the hateful and hate-filled dogmatists like Josie, whose spite and bullying tactics are enough to make anyone shudder.
Written with total conviction and bucket loads of compassion, this is an extremely powerful and impacting novel which portrays a scenario not so very far removed from the society we live in today, and illustrates just how damaging preconception can be.
I highly recommend this book and am giving it the full 5 star whack