Friday, June 15, 2018

The Last Ballad
by Wiley Cash

Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: HarperCollins

Goodreads:  Twelve times a week, twenty-eight-year-old Ella May Wiggins makes the two-mile trek to and from her job on the night shift at American Mill No. 2 in Bessemer City, North Carolina. The insular community considers the mill’s owners—the newly arrived Goldberg brothers—white but not American and expects them to pay Ella May and other workers less because they toil alongside African Americans like Violet, Ella May’s best friend. While the dirty, hazardous job at the mill earns Ella May a paltry nine dollars for seventy-two hours of work each week, it’s the only opportunity she has. Her no-good husband, John, has run off again, and she must keep her four young children alive with whatever work she can find.

When the union leaflets begin circulating, Ella May has a taste of hope, a yearning for the better life the organizers promise. But the mill owners, backed by other nefarious forces, claim the union is nothing but a front for the Bolshevik menace sweeping across Europe. To maintain their control, the owners will use every means in their power, including bloodshed, to prevent workers from banding together. On the night of the county’s biggest rally, Ella May, weighing the costs of her choice, makes up her mind to join the movement—a decision that will have lasting consequences for her children, her friends, her town—indeed all that she loves.

Seventy-five years later, Ella May’s daughter Lilly, now an elderly woman, tells her nephew about his grandmother and the events that transformed their family. Illuminating the most painful corners of their history, she reveals, for the first time, the tragedy that befell Ella May after that fateful union meeting in 1929.


Kritters Thoughts:  Wiley Cash is known for writing books set in the heart of North Carolina and not showing all of the beautiful pieces but the nitty and the gritty.  He doesn't shy away from real life both in the present tense and the past.  This book jumps from different points of view, but stays solely in the small towns of North Carolina that at times were barely surviving with the mills in town.  

All centered around the mill strikes in 1929, the reader sees how this affected many different types of people from those working in the mill to those who owned the mills.  It was also interesting to read from both the perspective of a Caucasian person getting involved with the strike and the exclusion of the African Americans from the strike.  I learned so much about this time in North Carolina and how it really tore up the state.  

I have said this many times, but my favorite thing about historical fiction is learning something without feeling like I am taking a class.  This was an indepth view of just a few days, weeks and months of time in these small North Carolina towns and how their worlds were revolving around this industry.  

There were some slow parts and some characters and their chapters that I didn't love as much, but overall it was just so interesting.  

Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from TLC Book Tours.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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