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The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

The Last Town on Earth (2006)

by Thomas Mullen

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The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen is a story about an isolated logging town in the state of Washington whose reaction to the 1918 flu epidemic was to close themselves off from the outside world. Blocking the only road into town and posting guards, they thought they would be able to keep themselves free of sickness. What they didn’t expect was the appearance of a soldier who emerging from the forest, wanted to come into town for supplies. Not taking no for an answer, the soldier continued to press for admittance and the guards are forced to reply in a way that sets off a chain of actions that tears the town apart.

This was my first book by this author and although the writing at times felt a little clumsy and overwritten, I was totally intrigued by the story. The author’s descriptions of life in 1918 had an authentic feel and his characters were all well developed and complex. The Influenza is described in all it’s horrible detail and certainly has left a vivid imprint in my mind. It’s not often one discovers a historical story that is as original as this one and I learned a lot and not only about the epidemic. These were troubled times and the labour movement in the Pacific Northwest was unstable. This was also a time when women were agitating for the vote, and the population of the country was not totally behind going to war.

I found The Last Town on Earth to be a novel that was deceptively simple, this was a story that had both range and depth. As a first novel there could have been some improvements, but I look forward to reading more from this author. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Oct 21, 2015 |
Interesting story until the predictable actions of one boy caused me, for the first time in my life, to close the book and stop reading. I just could not continue reading. ( )
  catsinstacks | Jul 26, 2015 |
This is the story of a fictional logging/milling town in Washington state that decides to quarantine itself from the influenza epidemic of 1918.

Eh. The writing was fine, if a bit tedious, but it just didn't grab me for some reason. A lot of the action happens "off-screen," which lends a detached feeling--I would have loved to see some more of the up-close-and-personal interactions. None of the characters feel quite real, perhaps because we don't get a lot of back story on most of them. Philip, the adopted son of the town's owner, is the only one I got a real feel for--I wish the other characters had been as well drawn.

One book that handles a similar situation (plague in England) amazingly well is Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders (well, until the end of the book, anyway), and the definitive book on the 1918 influenza outbreak is The Great Influenza, by John Barry, both of which I've reviewed. Maybe the current debut novel suffers in comparison with the two other masterworks. ( )
  Pat_F. | Jul 25, 2014 |
I've been trying for the past several days to read this book. I really liked the concept, but the writing just isn't drawing me in or holding my attention. ( )
  Jenna.Czaplewski | Jul 3, 2014 |
This is the young author's first novel. He's definitely one to watch. I like the historical edge to the book even though it is based on fiction due to the fact that there is not much factual history on this particular subject. Good read! ( )
1 vote admccrae | Apr 3, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Mullenprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strozier, HenryNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Perhaps the easiest way of making a town's acquaintance is to ascertain how the people in it work, how they love, and how they die. - ALBERT CAMUS, The Plague

An injury to one is an injury to all. - Industrial Workers of the World slogan
For Jenny
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The sun poked out briefly, evidence of a universe above them, of watchful things - planets and stars and vast galaxies of infinite knowledge - and just as suddenly it retreated behind the clouds. The doctor passed only two other autos during the fifteen-minute drive, saw but a lone pedestrian even though it was noon on Sunday, a time when people normally would be returning home from church, visiting with friends and family. The flu had been in Timber Falls for three weeks now, by the doctor's best estimation, and nearly all traffic on the streets had vanished. The sick were condemned to their homes, and the healthy weren't venturing outside.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812975928, Paperback)

Wow. This stunning book succeeds on so many different levels--as an engrossing story, a character study, a history lesson, a modern day political allegory--I don't even know where to begin the praise. The Last Town on Earth centers on the inhabitants of a small logging town in Washington and what happens when they take drastic measures (quarantine) to try and protect themselves from the virulent and deadly flu epidemic of 1918. When a deserting WWI soldier demands sanctuary, events are set in motion that change the town forever.

Although this is Mullen's first published work, there are none of the usual verbal pyrotechnics or high-wire "look how well I can write" balancing acts one sees with beginning authors. How refreshing to read a younger author who has already progressed beyond his ego and knows that it's all about story, story, story. Mullen tells his tale cleanly, simply and plainly--making the ironies and allegories all the more potent. I knew almost nothing of the flu epidemic of 1918 and even less about the political climate in the US during WW1. These are not subjects I would go out of my way to read about, but Mullen has made them compelling and interesting. In fact, the author's voice has the same level of confidence and maturity that one only finds in writers with decades more experience (I kept thinking of Wallace Stegner and Alice Munro while I was reading)--authors who earn your trust and confidence so early and easily that you completely relax into the writing and the voice. It's already on my Ten Best List; I can't imagine I'll read ten better books this year. It's easily the most impressive and heartfelt book I've read in a long while. --Terry Goodman

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:14 -0400)

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As the deadly Spanish Flu claims victims nearby, a small town in the Pacific Northwest votes to quarantine itself.

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