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The Last Town on Earth

3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  3,952 ratings  ·  707 reviews
Set against the backdrop of one of the most virulent epidemics that America ever experienced -the 1918 flu-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, t
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Random House (first published January 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

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Working in a cube farm, I dread the cold & flu season because you’re surrounded by hacking, sneezing, phlegm-filled germ factories who insist on coming to work and spreading their misery because they don’t want to burn their sick days on ‘just a cold’. I’ve often thought that we should set up some kind of quarantine zone in the building and make any of the infected go there and work so that the rest of us may be spared. After reading The Last Town on Earth, I’m torn between thinking that it’ ...more
Elizabeth  Fuller
This book has a lot going for it - a very dramatic time (the influenza epidemic of 1918), a very dramatic premise (a town that tries to fend off sickness by isolating itself), and - if possible - even more dramatic situations as the story progresses (what happens when two different strangers try to enter the self-quarantined town). So I should have loved it. And I really wanted to. But somehow, I didn't, and it was kind of an effort to finish. But it was our book group's selection last month, so ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 13, 2007 Heidi rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: historical fiction readers
Shelves: fiction, read2007
This was suggested for our library book groups by the County Health Department. If a book group chose to read this, the department would contribute the books, and send a pandemic health department expert to the group. We chose this for our November read.

Jessica, our pandemic expert, was excited about this opportunity to work with the library, and the greater visibility the department could gain by partnering with the library. She'd heard the author on NPR, and started planning from there.

We re
Historically, this was a very interesting book. A fictional milling town in Washington State quarantines itself in an attempt to keep out the influenza of 1918. After the first few chapters, however, I did wonder whether the book was worth my time because of the poor writing. The author often stopped the action to describe (in detail) the physical appearance of every single insignificant character. There were too many characters, by the way, that were introduced for no apparent reason. The autho ...more
I really enjoyed this book... It wasn't super riveting but I thought the character development was very good. It was like a socialogical (is that a word?) study on the ways fear/war/illness can affect an entire community and the ways the ugly parts of people (and some good parts too) can be brought to the surface.
Jan 06, 2012 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Wobblies, doughboys, and Conscientious Objectors
A very nicely written historical novel set in the American northwest during the 1918 flu epidemic. The town of Commonwealth is a small, backwoods mill town, founded by an idealistic mill owner and settled by a variety of workers, mostly fleeing from union strife and harder conditions in other mill towns. Their pleasant, egalitarian little town lives in peaceful isolation except for the lumber they send downriver, until the coming of World War I and the draft, and then the influenza.

Thomas Mullen
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This story takes place during a grim and volatile period in U.S. history, when many factors could turn neighbor against neighbor. While some were losing their sons in WWI, there was a large anti-war movement and many men refused to enlist. There was also great worker unrest and violence involving the "Wobblies" (I.W.W.) who were seeking better working conditions and higher wages. Women were agitating for the right to vote. Then along came the Influenza Pandemic of 1918, causing people to fear th ...more
I liked this book. It is Mullen's debut and I have to admit that a few times, I thought the writing was just a little clumsy. Several of the characters had trouble in their pasts and Mullen would mention it a few times before actually describing the past trouble. The main character, Philip had lost part of his foot due to an accident. Mullens mentioned Philip limping and had mentioned the accident without telling us what it was several times before going into detail. I almost would've prefered i ...more
When I was a child, my father used to tell me about this outbreak of the 'flu during WWI that "killed more people than the war, that year." The fact that Dad was born 15 years after the war ended but talked about it like he was there was a testimony to the fact the impact of the outbreak was significant in our small, Western town.

This book fictionalizes the 1919 Spanish 'flu epidemic in an intriguing way: what if (like Gunnison, Colorado) a town cut themselves off in order to avoid infection? W
This was a good novel about the spanish flu in a fictional mill town in the Northeastern US in 1918. I had no idea how badly it affected its victims. I learned a lot while reading this book including the political pro-war climate of the time. Made me thankful once again that I live in a time that I can express dissent and opposition to popular opinion without being labeled a traitor.
This book started out horrifying and then got worse. Not that the book was bad, just that the situations of the major characters and the town went from bad to worse. There were times in this book I could sense what was coming and had to put the book down. The novel was interesting and set in an unusual place and time.
A very good historical fiction that includes the 1918 Influenza epidemic, World War I disenters, and the tie between Socialism and unionization in the early 20th century. The story takes place in a logging town established on the principle that sharing the profits with everyone makes everyone profitable. When the "Spanish" flu breaks out in near by towns, the inhabitants agree that they will quarantine themselves until it passes by. Phillip, the adopted son of the owner of the mill is on guard w ...more
All I can say is, "Wow." Not only was this book amazingly well written, concsious of human depth, and amazing in breadth and scope, it was a good read. THe thing I found most interesting about it was the question of how far both you the reader, and the characters within the book are willing to go to save your own life, and the lives of those around you. (At this point continue only if you have already read the book or are not planning on reading it. SPOILER ALERT!) When the town first quarantine ...more
Set amongst the 1918 flu pandemic, the trail end of the first world war, and the violence of the emerging labor movement, this book tells the tale of the fictional Northwestern town of Commonwealth which attempts to keep itself healthy by creating a reverse quarantine meant to keep out people with the deadly flu and protect the town. This is an intriguing story with interesting themes and definitely a page-turner at the end.

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy Thomas Mullen's writing style. He should
I read _The Last Town on Earth_ for the BGSU Common Reading Experience Book Selection Committee. Well, actually I read it twice: first, a very quick skim and hated, then again very closely and realized it actually could be a pretty good CRE choice.

In terms of exploring values, this book is perfect. Virtually all the main characters and some of the secondary characters are confronted by values choices at some point in this book, and the author writes the book in a clear enough way that even reade
I remember learning about WWI in history class and it being classified as a classic struggle between good and evil. Much like WWII really was. They fail to mention that while America was drafting it's young men for slaughter overseas the remaining population was being wiped out by the Spanish flu.

This is a great book that brings to question patriotism in times of crisis. Much like today. I could see a lot of mirrored ideologies and beliefs with present day conflicts. Is it right to send off our
In The Last Town on Earth, Mullen does a wonderful job of weaving the three archetypal conflicts: man vs. man, man vs. the machine (society), and man vs. nature. He does so in an unexpected way, with a wide cast of well-developed characters. The story initially revolves around Philip, the adopted son on the mill's owner, but it becomes quickly apparent that while he continues as the main protagonist, this is not just his story; the town is really the main character, and all the people that play ...more
I picked this up to read because the topic - a community dealing with plague - interested me. I soon discovered I had indeed read the book before. The story and characters, if not the title, made a lasting impression on me and I was eager to read it again particularly because, in the intervening years, I have become more educated about the craft of writing and can deeply appreciate the beauty of the prose.

The topic is even more timely now than in 2006. With fears of pandemics looming it is usef
Michelle Snarr
I was not aware that any town's had self quarantined themselves during any war. I never heard it mentioned before. So I tried a little research, I only found the one town in the USA, Gunnison Colorado in 1918 as the result of the Spanish flu and the author mentions this.

Aside from finding that some indivuals were quarantined I found areas were set apart, but not a whole town.

My research was not by any means thorough; I found in1900 in San Francisco a Chinese business was quarantined because of
Anne Trinkle
Inspired by stories of real towns that attempted to quarantine themselves off from the world to keep the Spanish flu epidemic at bay during WWI, Thomas Mullen imagines what it would have been like for the people living in the town. The Spanish flu was very real and you get a real clear idea of how it destroyed people. It raised so many questions. What would it take to quarantine off an entire town? How would that affect the people who lived there? Would the quarantine be successful and keep the ...more
Kabat Brian
An amazing first novel from a promising author. The book is part mystery, part tragedy, and contains a detailed cast of characters. The author writes in a way that allows you to know each of the characters so that you grieve when they suffer and rejoice when they triumph. The greatest aspect of the writing is the way the actions of the characters are rationalized so that the reader can see that sometimes people with common goals will still directly contrast eac hother.
this month's dcbooktalks was my choice! i hope im not disappointed...well....i was disappointed. i found the historical backdrop interesting - and am interested in reading more about the 1918 flu, but i felt a sense of dreariness, cloudiness and greyness while reading this book. didn't find any of the characters that redemeeing -- or if at first i did, then became disenchangted... found some of the dialogue either unrealistic or contrived as well...
If you love a great storyline, you'll love The Last Town on Earth. It's historical fiction intermeshed with medical thriller. Set during WWI, during the draft, a flu epidemic sweeps the West Coast, when one fictional town called Commonwealth, Oregon, quarantines itself from the rest of the world to prevent the epidemic to enter the town. A lot of twists and turns in each chapter to keep you guessing what happens next, all the way to the end. I recommend it.
Caleb Hettinga
Caleb Hettinga
Mrs. Johnson-Per.1
Book Review #1-Grading Period #1

1.) Introduction: The title of this novel is “The Last Town on Earth”, written by Thomas Mullen. This book was published in Great Britain in 2006 by Fourth Estate. It was printed in Australia by Griffin Press. This book is a suspense-filled thriller that is about the will to survive. Along with the background information, I would also like to tell you about the story in this book.

2.) Brief Summary: The world has been hit by
In brief, it was OK for me. As others have said, it should/could have been really good - and parts of it were. I think it was a slow burner after an interesting start and only picked up the pace near the half way mark. I'm glad I stuck with it, though the characters are not as well developed as they might have been. From a historical point of view it's a good read, I just felt a little disappointed overall.
The premise behind this story - that you can isolate yourself and be immune to what is going on in the world - is one that has driven many groups over the years. Here the author has given us a lumber mill owner and his wife who have a vision of a better way to run a company. Commonwealth is their town and the decision is made to bar anyone from entering or leaving so as to escape the Spanish flu ravaging the rest of the country. We are introduced to every side of the issue, as well as all the se ...more
Because of all the fear-mongering that was brought about by the Ebola "crisis" in the U.S. this book seemed well timed. I knew nothing about the flu epidemic of 1918. This book fictionally presents a small timber mill community in the North-West that self quarantines itself against the deadly virus and how the people of that community are influenced by internal forces that try to enforce the quarantine and by those that don't believe in the quarantine, as well as by members of neighboring commun ...more
This book really held my attention--I am a big fan of historical fiction. This story of the Commonswealth townpeople and their battle with the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 was fascinating to me. I highly recommend it!
This book is an excellent study of human nature. I read it while the country was in a panic about the Avian flu, it was amazing that while set in the early 20th century the story was as valid as today.
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Thomas Mullen is the author of "The Last Town on Earth," which was named Best Debut Novel of 2006 by USA Today and was awarded the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for excellence in historical fiction, and "The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers." His books have been named Best of the Year by such publications as The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Onion, and Amazon.c ...more
More about Thomas Mullen...
The Revisionists The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers Last Call at the Stork Hotel Connections F/Hlth Stdy Guide I Share My World with You

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“Another time he felt himself reenacting a conversation with father, a long talk about duty and honor and all the reasons why enlisting was the right thing to do. It was a talk they'd had several months ago, and Frank had agreed with everything his father had said, only this time Frank found himself taking a contrary opinion. What the hell's so honorable about it? Duty to whom? To myself, or the guys who would be fighting without me, or to the people here at home afraid of the Hun? Or duty to President Wilson, or to Carnegie, or to God, or to all the fallen soldiers before me, to Great-grandad Emmett and his bleached bones down at Antietam?” 1 likes
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