This winter the Library held a Cozy Blanket Bingo contest, which was a great hit with patrons and staff. It challenged participants to read something they might not normally read. My goal was to finish every square on the Bingo card, which I did and it helped me cross a number of books off my To Read list. One of the squares required you to read a book that was on the bottom of your To Read list. For this one I chose The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen. I’ve had this book on my list for several years now and have been meaning to get around to it, so this was the perfect reason.
The Last Town on Earth is set in a small, secluded mill town in the Pacific Northwest in 1918, just as the Spanish Influenza is ravaging the country. The small town, Commonwealth, was created as an escape from other typical mill towns, providing a living wage and free housing for workers. The flu has not yet reached Commonwealth, and as a precaution, the town decides to quarantine itself to prevent infection, posting guards at the road that leads into town. Sixteen-year-old Phillip Worthy is one of the guards on duty when a cold and hungry soldier, claiming to have been involved in an accident, approaches the town. The soldier refuses to leave and is killed; setting in motion a series of events that divides the townspeople and threatens the town’s survival.
What drew me to this book was the subject of the Spanish Influenza. While I knew of it, I didn’t know how horrible and deadly it was. Mullen’s descriptions of the flu and how quickly it spread, were chilling. During this time, World War I was also going on and Mullen incorporates a mystery surrounding the soldier that is killed. Commonwealth is seen as a communist haven and viewed with suspicion by outsiders. The townspeople are accused of being unpatriotic, draft dodging, and hiding spies, which brings trouble to town. The mystery surrounding the soldier, as well as the question of which characters will survive the flu, kept me engrossed throughout the story. Fans of historical fiction should put this one at the top of their To Read list.
You can place a hold on the book in the Deerfield Public Library catalog (www.deerfieldlibrary.org) right now. If you have to wait, be sure to check out “You Might Also Like These…” at the bottom of the catalog page.
This review was previously published by the Deerfield Review.