Review of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap; Paulette Mahurin; Blue Palm Press 2012; pp 202
– Shana Susan Ninan
Paulette Mahurin’s first book The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap is as much about Mildred’s and her cousin Edra’s persecution at the hands of the townsfolk as it is about the human emotions of love, repressed hate, hypocrisy, anger, jealousy and tolerance. Following the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment after being found guilty of “gross indecency”, or in plain terms, for being in love with another man, small town Red River Pass is bustling with fresh gossip.
Mildred, with a manly physique and appearance, doesn’t fail to attract unwanted attention whenever she’s in town. In fact, if she keeps away from town for a couple of days, the gossipmongers come up with reasons conjured up for her absence – everything from a dreaded disease to a sure-shot pregnancy! But Mildred’s a kind soul, and with her entrepreneurial father having left her a large house, several town buildings and a ranch, she has plenty to give around. From writing off loans to helping families in crisis, she’s always there to lend a hand.
Her secret relationship with her cousin Edra is about to be discovered, and they have to do something quick in order to divert attention. But as luck would have it, all their ‘methods’ turn eyes to the two of them. No matter what they do, the townsfolk are waiting for a juicy morsel, to spin tales. And before their secret can be revealed, destiny dishes out a disaster that takes a life, leaves one deranged, and two to relocate to start a new life. And all through this, Mildred lends support to the stricken, even though they’ve conspired to ruin her name.
Racism against Blacks and anti-Semitism are two other important threads that make up the fabric of this engaging plot. Each character is well-rounded, almost as a reflection of our society – Josie’s hatred towards Mildred and her family, Helen’s submissiveness under pressure from gossiping peers, Edra’s fear of men and the outdoors after her rape. A quote of Oscar Wilde’s leads us to each chapter, poignant and meaningful.
Paulette Mahurin, an award-winning bestselling author, is a Nurse Practitioner who lives in Ojai, California with her husband Terry and their two dogs–Max and Bella. All profits are going to Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center, Ventura County, California. (the first and only no-kill animal shelter in Ventura County).
I enjoyed Paulette’s lucid but provoking narrative, and the happy thought of how women emerge strong out of adversities thrown at them, by default, and sometimes, by design.