Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Last Town on Earth

I was introduced to Thomas Mullen by my friend Alli who suggested Darktown by him, but when I went to my library that wasn't in so I got The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers and The Last Town on Earth which he also wrote.  I read Firefly brothers first and that was super good! I enjoy historical books that have a bit of truth but a lot of the authors imagination involved and he delivers.

The Last Town on Earth is set in Washington during 1918.  The Great War is on in France and and the Spanish Flu is raging around the globe.  Commonwealth is a town in the state of Washington that was started by Charles Worthy and his wife, Rebecca, who is a political activist.  They own a mill and he believes in fair wages and treating workers with respect. 

The town decides that they will cut themselves out from the rest of the world to try to keep the flu away from them.  They close off the road to town and set out guards to keep people away.  Anyone who wants to leave can leave, they just will not be allowed to re-enter until after the quarantine is lifted.

As the quarantine continues and food supply starts to shrink and the townspeople start to learn some interesting traits about themselves and their neighbors.  Was the quarantine the best solution? Would they do it again?

It brings up a lot of questions to think through and would be a great book for discussion.  I liked that it took ideas from the time (Great War, Spanish Flu, women's right to vote, patriotism, unionizing, etc) and put a personal spin to the situation.  And I liked that the characters were developed enough to re-think some of their past choices and see how what they did had a domino affect on others in the community.

DescriptionSet against the backdrop of one of the most virulent epidemics that America ever experienced-the 1918 flu epidemic-Thomas Mullen's powerful, sweeping first novel is a tale of morality in a time of upheaval. 
Deep in the mist-shrouded forests of the Pacific Northwest is a small mill town called Commonwealth, conceived as a haven for workers weary of exploitation. For Philip Worthy, the adopted son of the town's founder, it is a haven in another sense-as the first place in his life he's had a loving family to call his own. 
And yet, the ideals that define this outpost are being threatened from all sides. A world war is raging, and with the fear of spies rampant, the loyalty of all Americans is coming under scrutiny. Meanwhile, another shadow has fallen across the region in the form of a deadly illness striking down vast swaths of surrounding communities. 
When Commonwealth votes to quarantine itself against contagion, guards are posted at the single road leading in and out of town, and Philip Worthy is among them. He will be unlucky enough to be on duty when a cold, hungry, tired-and apparently ill-soldier presents himself at the town's doorstep begging for sanctuary. The encounter that ensues, and the shots that are fired, will have deafening reverberations throughout Commonwealth, escalating until every human value-love, patriotism, community, family, friendship-not to mention the town's very survival, is imperiled. 
Inspired by a little-known historical footnote regarding towns that quarantined themselves during the 1918 epidemic, "The Last Town on Earth" is a remarkably moving and accomplished debut.

Have you read any historical fiction recently? Any that you'd recommend? What are your thoughts on quarantining a community when there is a mass outbreak of illness? Do you think that it is wise? UnAmerican?

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