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The Last Town on Earth

Cover of The Last Town on Earth

The Last Town on Earth

A Novel
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Set 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...More
Set 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...More
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Description-
  • Set 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.

    From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpts-
  • Chapter 1

    I

    The road to Commonwealth was long and forbidding, stretching for miles beyond Timber Falls and leading deep into the evergreen woods, where the trees grew taller still as if trying to reach the sun that teased them with the paucity of its rays. Douglas fir loomed over the rock-strewn road like two warring armies perched on opposing cliffs. Even those travelers who all their lives had been reminded of their insignificance felt particularly humbled by that stretch of road and the preternatural darkness that shadowed it.

    Some number of miles into the woods, the road curved to the right and the trees backed off a bit, the brown dirt and occasional stumps evidence that the woods had been cleared out only recently, and only with extreme tenacity. The clearing rose along a gradual incline; at the base of the hill, a tree that had recently been chopped down blocked the road. Into its thick bark a sign was nailed: a warning to travelers who didn't exist, a silent cry into deaf woods.

    A crisp wind picked up atop the bare hill, carrying the combined exhalations of millions of fir and pine. Philip sucked in his breath.

    "Cold?" Graham asked.

    "I'm fine."

    Graham motioned back to the town. "You need to get yourself a warmer jacket, go ahead."

    "I'll stay."

    "Suit yourself." Philip did look cold in his thin jacket and khaki pants--pencil-pusher attire--whereas Graham was clad in his usual blue overalls and a thick wool coat.

    "Look like it's gonna snow to you?" Philip Worthy was sixteen, tall despite the limp that made people think he was shorter, but not as brawny as most of the men in that town of lumberjacks and millworkers.

    "It's not going to snow."

    Graham, twenty-five, was what in many ways Philip aspired to be: strong, quietly wise, the man of his house. While Philip felt he needed to be polite and conversational to ingratiate himself with people, Graham seemed to say the minimum necessary and always won respect. Philip had known him for two years, and he still wanted to figure out how a fellow did that.

    "Colder'n I thought it'd be," Philip said. "Sometimes that means snow."

    Graham understood his companion's dread of snow. He shook his head. "It's cold, but it ain't going to snow. It's October."

    Philip nodded, shoulders hunched against the cold.

    Graham laid his rifle on the ground, then took off his coat. "Here, put it on."

    "No, really, I'll be all right. I don't want you to get--"

    "Put the damn coat on." Graham smiled. "I've got more meat on my bones anyway."

    "Thanks." Philip placed his rifle beside Graham's. The jacket was big on him, the sleeves extending beyond his hands. He knew he looked foolish, but it was as good as wearing gloves. He wouldn't be able to hold the rifle, but that seemed fine, since he didn't expect he'd need to.

    "Who do you think that was in the Model T on Sunday?" Philip asked.

    "Don't know." Neither of them had been at the post on Sunday, when two other guards had seen a shiny new Ford drive as far as the fallen tree would allow. The guard post was too far away to get a good look at the driver, who never emerged from his automobile. The fedora told them it was a man, but that was all. The man had apparently read the sign, stopped to think for no longer than a moment, then turned around and driven away. It was the only sighting of an outsider since the town had closed itself off.

    Commonwealth sat about fifty miles northeast of Seattle, or maybe a ...
About the Author-
  • Thomas Mullen was born in Rhode Island and lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife. He is at work on a new novel.


    From the Hardcover edition.
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    Random House Publishing Group
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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