Paulette Mahurin’s The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap was not a great book by any stretch of the imagination. It really could have been stellar, but it fell short for me.
The book focuses on the life of Mildred Dunlap, a lesbian woman living out west in the late 1880s. The premise really could have taken this book to new heights, but I found myself wondering if I’d read this book before and then it hit me: The Help.
In the 1880s, gays and lesbians were persecuted. In Europe, Oscar Wilde was imprisoned and forced into hard labor after he was discovered having sex with another man. Booker T. Washington was making his address in Atlanta just after the Civil War and slavery ended. Much of the talk made its way around the world and eventually ended up in the newly settling western United States. Times were changing and people weren’t always ready.
So back to The Help: Set during the Civil Rights Movement, Black servants in the rural South are put into precarious positions with their white employers. One woman dares to be different and treats Black people like humans. One woman doesn’t want to change and tries to “keep the Blacks in their place.” Good always wins and everyone has a happy ending.
Without giving too much of Mildred’s story away: Set during the persecution of Oscar Wilde, Booker T. Washington, and radical ideas. Mildred Dunlap spends much of her life being criticized for being different; she’s too manly, she’s weird, she never has a man in her life, etc. She’s mostly okay with herself, but once word of Oscar Wilde gets out, the townsfolk start spreading their hateful ideas around. Mildred will do whatever she can to protect her life and her family.
Enter Josie, the town busybody and our villain of this story. She spreads her hateful words around town and starts her rumors. She acts like she has the authority and pretends to speak the truth. The townswomen are terrified to cross her path, lest they endure her wrath. Josie has some hidden vendetta against poor Mildred. Josie does not know Mildred’s secret, nor does Mildred know Josie’s. Needless to say, the climax involves these two and Josie’s plot to ruin Mildred.
Those who have read The Help (or have even read a fair amount of other books) will see the end of this story coming from 100 miles away. That doesn’t make this a bad book, I just feel that Paulette Mahurin could have done more to make this a unique story.
I gave the book 3 out of 5 stars. I wanted to give this book a better rating. The events are incredibly relevant to today’s news, but this one just didn’t work for me due to the similarities to other novels.
Don’t just take my word for it, however. Grab yourself a copy from Amazon and let’s start a conversation.