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The Last Town on Earth (2006)

by Thomas Mullen

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1,1885412,704 (3.63)111
Nestled in the quiet woods of the Pacific Northwest, the town of Commonwealth is a haven for the loggers who live ther, until the flu starts striking down entire surrounding villages. When the residents of Commonwealth vote to quarantine themselves, armed guards are posted at the one road leading to town. But then a disheveled--and apparently sick--soldier approaches begging for food and shelter. Shots are fired, and soon Commonwealth is plunged into turmoil.… (more)

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English (53)  German (1)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
A small mill town, called Commonwealth, nestled in the deep woods of the Pacific Northwest, was constructed as a sanctuary for workers. Housing was included, along with a fair wage. The year was 1918, and the Spanish Flu has been raging, along with the first World War. Commonwealth decides to quarantine itself, setting up guards around the perimeter. This leads to many conflicts with the outside world, along with struggles on the inside. An ambitious first novel. The narrative is not as smooth as Mullen’s later works but I enjoyed this very timely and disturbing story. ( )
  msf59 | Aug 12, 2021 |
I have had this novel/ebook on my "To be read" list for years! It was the cover and title that attracted me to the book -- I did not know what the storyline was but I do enjoy apocalyptic/dystopian novels and likely believed that is what the novel was going to be about.

I was not far off.

But since I finally read it in 2021, I did not expect to, essentially, be reading what is, essentially, my current history -- living through a pandemic and staying quarantined to stay safe from a new virus that is killing people at an alarming rate, all while others are ready and willing to go to war with those who don't believe the same politics or government rhetoric.

Living through history is way more terrifying than reading about it.

Adrianne ( )
  Adrianne_p | Feb 13, 2021 |
Very timely, as we face the current epidemic. Those trying to lock down the world really should read this!

A town under quarantine during the 1918 flu epidemic must reckon with forces beyond their control in a powerful, sweeping novel of morality in a time of upheaval

“An American variation on Albert Camus’ The Plague.”—Chicago Tribune


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 virus 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. ( )
  Gmomaj | Dec 30, 2020 |
Prescient for the times we are living in right now with the pandemic; amazing how the author got so much right in his descriptions of the disease, although this book was written in 2006. Set in the fictional logging town of Commonwealth, Washington, it tells the story of a small town that quarantines itself from the outside world during the Spanish flu years; all are forbidden to enter under threat of death. Should people leave, they mayn't return. A kind act by one of the guards, a young man named Philip, brings repercussions to the town. A subplot involves the Great War and soldiers. Is the soldier to whom Philip shows mercy a German spy in disguise? Has the soldier brought the pestilence to the town, with Philip its unwitting conduit? The inhabitants do get the disease. If not from Philip, from where?
The seed of the idea from the book arose from the author's having read of such towns that quarantined themselves at that time, but this book is completely fictional. A fascinating, unputdownable tale.

Highly recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Sep 29, 2020 |
3.5 ( )
  SSBranham | Sep 17, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 53 (next | show all)
Mullen’s debut novel is as upright, square-jawed and serious as the people he writes about and, alas, as wooden. He has a good story to tell, weaving together the flu epidemic, America’s entry into the First World War and its pioneering history of labour organisation. He has done his research thoroughly and developed his characters carefully. What he has failed to do is successfully embed his work in the fiction.
Under siege, the virtuous city — a symbol of freedom and safety — instantly becomes a prison. Step by step, the citizens divide into the guards and the guarded. Outward physical health comes to seem more and more like a sign of inward moral corruption.
A progressive community buckles under a double whammy: the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and the hatreds stirred by American participation in WWI.... Mullen’s debut gets mileage out of the gruesome epidemic and contains some interesting historical nuggets, but it fails to mesh its grim subject matter with convincing individual narratives.
added by Lemeritus | editKirkus Reviews (Jun 15, 2006)
...what Mullen supplies in terms of historical context, he lacks in storytelling; though the novel is set in 1918, it was written in a post 9/11 world where fear of bird flu regularly makes headlines, and the allegory is heavy-handed (the protagonist townie, after all, is named Philip Worthy). The grim fascination of the narrative, however, will keep readers turning the pages.
added by Lemeritus | editPublishers Weekly (May 22, 2006)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thomas Mullenprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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Nestled in the quiet woods of the Pacific Northwest, the town of Commonwealth is a haven for the loggers who live ther, until the flu starts striking down entire surrounding villages. When the residents of Commonwealth vote to quarantine themselves, armed guards are posted at the one road leading to town. But then a disheveled--and apparently sick--soldier approaches begging for food and shelter. Shots are fired, and soon Commonwealth is plunged into turmoil.

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During World War I, the influenza pandemic ultimately killed more people around the world than the war itself. The Last Town on Earth takes as its launching point a striking historical footnote: some uninfected towns were so terrified of the surrounding flu that they closed their entrances, posted signs warning strangers not to enter, and even stationed armed guards to make sure no outsiders brought infection into their communities. Mullen incisively imagines this situation, employing it as the basis for the moral drama spurring his story forward. One night, an infected soldier approaches the newly founded town of Commonwealth, which was created as a refuge for its mill worker residents, begging for food and shelter. Should the guards on duty admit a stranger to their town (someone who has been fighting a war on their behalf), thereby putting their families and loved ones at risk of infection? Or should they place their lives above his and leave him to freeze to death in the dark woods?
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