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The Last Ballad

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3.90  ·  Rating details ·  4,455 ratings  ·  856 reviews
Named a Best Book of 2017 by the Chicago Public Library

“Wiley Cash reveals the dignity and humanity of people asking for a fair shot in an unfair world.”

- Christina Baker Kline, author of A Piece of the World and Orphan Train


The New York Times bestselling author of the celebrated A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy returns with this eagerly awaited new n
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ebook, 416 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by William Morrow
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Vicki Renee I'm so excited! Just happened to stop in my library this afternoon and there it was on the "New Shelf." Just started reading it...am entranced. The…moreI'm so excited! Just happened to stop in my library this afternoon and there it was on the "New Shelf." Just started reading it...am entranced. The mill stuff is reminiscent of Anita Shreve's SEA GLASS which I'm reading on my Kindle which is very interesting.(less)
Cathy The disjointed narrative is my problem....Why are so many authors using the introduction of new characters and in the end try and tie things up?

Community Reviews

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3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,455 ratings  ·  856 reviews


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Will Byrnes
Ella stared west. She imagined the great mountains foggy and raindamp in the distance, the blue ridges rolling away in great swells. She opened her mouth, paused for a moment, gathered the story of her life around her as she would lift the hem of a long dress before stepping across a stream. She did not think, did not stop to look at [anyone]. She simply began to speak.
Events and people have a way of disappearing when they do not suit the narrative favored by those who decide what is to be all
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Angela M
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Wiley Cash is a storyteller who captures both my mind and my heart. He has written three novels, three different stories but all bearing in common Wiley's beautiful writing as well as an uncanniness for depicting the human condition under circumstances that chill us as readers. His writing takes you exactly where he wants you to be - to the place, to the moment, into the thoughts of these characters. Each of his novels take place in North Carolina where he lives, but this one is broader in scop
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Diane S ☔
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
What would you do if you were in your late twenties, already have had four children and now a new one on the way. Your husband has left you, you are now poor and alone, living in a shack in the black section of town. You, yourself are not black nor are your children, but they have proven to be wonderful friends, one named Violet you call your best friend. In order to feed your children, you work at a textile mill, 60-70 hour work weeks, making only nine dollars a week. Then you see flyers asking ...more
Karen
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful novel based on the true life of Ella Mae Wiggins, a poverty stricken mill worker at the Loray Mill in North Carolina, 1929. She helped to try and form a union, specially an integrated union in a time when people didn’t accept blacks.
This woman had so much courage to leave her job to work on union matters when she had little ones at home that she could barely feed. Such a tragic story that touched my heart.
I went online after finishing the book so I could see pictures of her and her ki
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Cheri
!! NOW AVAILABLE !!

“We leave our homes in the morning
We kiss our children goodbye
While we slave for the bosses
Our children scream and cry

But understand all, workers
Our union they do fear
Let's stand together, workers
And have a union here

"A Mill Mother's Lament" – Ella May Wiggins

“Saturday, May 4, 1929”

”Ella May knew she wasn’t pretty, had always know it. She didn’t have to come all the way down the mountain from Tennessee to Bessemer City, North Carolina to find that out. But here she was now
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Linda
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
"You exist whether it is written down or not, and you are dead whether it's written down or not too."

Do we make our mark only in the lives of those who love us or does that mark still exist whether it is simply acknowledged or not?

Wiley Cash creates a superbly written story based on the actual life of a little known woman named Ella May Wiggins. Ella May's life barely caused a ripple to stir in her early years. Her innocent nature fell for the golden charms of handsome John Wiggins when she was
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Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
5 Tar Heel State stars for The Last Ballad

Ella May Wiggins was a strong character and a strong woman in real life. Ella fought hard to organize a union in her area, and it was important to her that all races were allowed to be part of the union. We received a multi-dimensional look into her life through the various characters in the book, as the story was told from more than just Ella's point of view. The way this was done was genius. I've never seen a character study executed in this way. It's
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Berit☀️✨
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
this book was based on the life of a remarkable, smart, and feisty woman Ella May Wiggins...
This is tough for me, I am such a character girl, and this is such a plot driven book... I found Ella and her children’s lives very interesting... I really wanted more about them; Love how the children looked out for each other and really appreciated the fact that they did not care about color... also would have liked more about Ella’s friendships with Violet and Sophia, and of course very unlikely frien
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Esil
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ew
The Last Ballad is the first book I have read by Wiley Cash, but it won't be the last. I loved the topic, some of the characters and the story. It's based on the true story of Ella May Wiggins, who was a union organizer in North Carolina. From the beginning, we know that Ella May died young in 1929. Told through a number of characters, including Ella May, Cash gives a feel for the living and working conditions of people working in the cotton mills at that time. He also explores the class and rac ...more
Brenda - Traveling Sister
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars rounded up

The Last Ballad is a powerful, haunting, and moving story, that had me lost in the insightful, heartbreaking lush coulee with some of our Travelling Sisters. The story explores the courage of one woman's inspiring fight for justice that was inspired by actual events.

Wiley Cash shows us the heartbreak and bravery of one woman along with other women and men who risked their lives to win basic rights for all workers. With intertwining voices and different perspectives, Cash take
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Zoeytron
Sep 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: public-library
It's 1929 in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina.  Ella May Wiggins, a 28 year old single mother from Stumptown, barely keeps her family fed on the wages she makes at the textile mill.  Dirt poor she may be, but she is also tough and resourceful.  When union organizers start to make their voices heard in the area, Ella May sees an opportunity to do better for herself and her kids.  Integration plays a big part here.  It will have you pondering the things that have changed, and those that ...more
Stephanie Anze
Ella May Wiggins is a single mother to four children. Six days out of the week she a spinner at American Mill No. 2. Overworked and underpaid, Ella has no choice but to continue at this job that barely sustains her family. When the leaflets for the union start appearing at her work, she is intrigued and decides to attend a rally. Struck by the significance of the union on the mill workers, Ella joins up. It will be a decision that will alter her life and many more after her.

What a remarkable boo
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Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
You can read this and all of my reviews at Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine.

This book first captured by attention at Book Expo 2017. I’d not heard of Ella May Wiggins prior to reading the blurb and I was very drawn to the story of this young woman who fought for social justice and racial and gender equality. I was also very drawn to the beautiful cover!

The Last Ballad is Ella’s story told in chapters which were snippets of the lives of several people who played a role in her story. With the exception of the c
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Lindsay - Traveling Sister
3.5 stars!

This was an informative, eye-opening and emotional novel. This story, based on true events, follows the life and legacy of Ella May Wiggins, a North Carolina union organizer in the 1920’s. She was one brave and courageous woman who stood up for her beliefs and worked hard to solely support her large family. I love learning about a piece of history I knew nothing about and this was definitely the case with this book. I was fascinated with Wiggins – learning how she lived and the choices
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Dana
Nov 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inspired by the events of an actual textile mill strike in 1929, Cash creates a vivid picture of one woman's desperation. (Kirkus Review)

Wiley Cash is a wonderful storyteller and great at capturing a strong sense of time and place/local color. He has done that again with The Last Ballad. Ella May Wiggins is a single mother who is barely keeping her family alive while working at a local mill, when she sees a flyer asking people to join a union. She finally sees hope and her best chance at a more
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Marialyce
Nov 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
What makes a person brave? What is it in some that allows them to push themselves forward in difficult times and achieve? Where does the line form between those who go with the flow and those who go against it?

Ella May Wiggins, a poor mother of four is uneducated, at a poverty level, and destined to work in a mill countless hours a week for the wage of nine dollars. She is unlucky in love as she seems to pick men that use her and then leave her. Saddled with the care of four children with anothe
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Connie
In the summer of 1929, Ella May Wiggins was trying to raise four children in a mill town in North Carolina on $9 weekly. She worked the night shift in the integrated textile mill for 12 hours six days every week. Her husband had run off, so the desperate mother had no help in clothing and feeding her hungry children. Ella got swept up by the union who were organizing a rally at the nearby mill town of Gastonia where she spoke of her troubles and sang pro-labor songs. Although this book is histor ...more
JanB
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I added a star to my rating, because now, a month after finishing, I find myself still thinking about it. It was a book that led me to the internet to find out more about Ella May, and that is the mark of a great book. Ella May was a poor, young, single mother of 4 working 12 hour days for a pittance, who became a labor organizer in 1929. Her story is a true one. Ella made $9/week, not enough to adequately house, clothe, and feed her children. I put her in a category with people throughout histo ...more
Cathrine ☯️
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: group-challenge
3.5★
“People want to know that you’ve earned it…you’ve earned the story. I’ve earned mine. I’ve earned this being sad, this loss, this being angry. People have lived the same kind of life I’ve lived. They need to know they’re not alone.”


Inspired by events of a textile-mill strike in 1929, Ella May Wiggins was a real person. She wrote songs that would be sung by Woody Guthrie and recorded by Pete Seeger.
I’d say this was a labor of love for Wiley Cash paying tribute to people who once lived in the
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Sara
Today is a tough day for me. I lost my sweet Fluffy, a cat who was more like my baby than my pet. He brightened my life for the last eighteen years, and I am at a loss to know what I am going to do without him. Additionally, I just came off a very hard and solemn read of A Fine Balance, so maybe the gloomy and foreboding book was not the best choice. So, I’m willing to concede that my timing might be part of what made this book never achieve the pinnacle it reaches for, but I think some of the c ...more
☮Karen
In person book club read #13 March 2018.

This would be my least favorite book from the Wiley Cash repertoire. I adored his others. I had previously set this aside after only one chapter, thinking I'd finish it another day. That day came when my book club made it our March selection. Then during this attempt at it, I swore at the 50% mark I could go no further. But for the sake of my book club, I skimmed a couple of chapters and it picked up again with about 150 pages remaining. Thankfully, those
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Diane Barnes
I really wanted to like this book much more than I did. It's my first Wiley Cash novel, and it's gotten glowing reviews, and takes place in my native NC, so I was receptive and entered the pages with high hopes.

The novel was written from different character's perspectives, and different time periods, which I usually like, but in this case, it seemed to take away from the main story of Ella May Wiggins and the violent mill strikes in Gastonia during 1929. I felt as though I were reading many diff
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
In 1929, the south was home to a growing movement of protest for workers' rights. Told from rotating perspectives as Wiley likes to do (including at least one character from forgotten history), the author tells the stories surrounding the Loray Mill in Gastonia, NC. I live in a former mill town in the south, also mentioned in the book, so this was of particular interest to me.

I've read several books by Wiley Cash at this point and have seen him speak a few times at conferences and the like. I se
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Tom Mathews
The biggest problem with novels based on actual events is those pesky spoilers. Seriously, how many people who watched the movie Titanic didn’t know at the outset that that ship was going to sink? Sometimes, though, it is necessary to put a human face on events that shape the world we live in. If Jack hadn’t sacrificed himself and died of hypothermia to save the woman he loved, how could we possibly come to care about a hunk of steel plummeting to the ocean floor?

So it is with the early days of
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Christina Kline
Jun 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lives are changed forever in this intimate and yet expansive novel about a real-life 1929 North Carolina mill strike. With subtlety and insight, Wiley Cash reveals the dignity and humanity of people asking for a fair shot in an unfair world. Fraught with the turmoil of social change, THE LAST BALLAD moves inexorably toward a devastating moment of reckoning. A timely and topical portrait of a community in crisis.
Nikki
The Last Ballad, by Wiley Cash, is a novel inspired by the real life of Ella May Wiggins, mill workers, unions, and tumultuous times in North Carolina in 1929. This is not a "light" read, but one that is thought provoking and, for me personally, one that requires lots of focus.
I enjoyed and appreciated the purpose and message of Cash's story, and I find myself still thinking of Ella May quite often. His writing is descriptive and beautiful, however, I struggled with the layout of the novel. I f
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Sue
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: southern-fiction
I have read all of Wiley Cash's books and I while I definitely enjoyed the first two, The Last Ballad, his third book, is definitely my favorite. The writing is so beautiful that I read the book slowly so I could savor his words. I felt like I was part of the action and could clearly see the scenes he set in this novel. The characters were so well done that I felt their pain as they worked to bring better pay and working conditions into the NC textile mills. This is a must read book about an ear ...more
Bookworm
I really wanted to love this book. I was quite excited upon starting it as many people raved about it. I'm sad to say that this story was good but not great for me. I had a hard time connecting with the characters and found them one dimensional. I tried really really hard to invest myself fully but just couldn't. I wasn't able to care about any of the characters. As the plot progressed, I found myself less and less invested to the point in which I started skimming to the end. The best part of th ...more
Kathleen
Thank you to Goodreads, because this book was not even on my radar until I saw the Goodreads giveaway and signed up. I won an autographed copy from William Morrow and I'm so glad I signed up.

The Last Ballad is historical fiction, based on true events in 1929. It is sad, and also beautiful, to see how Ella May and her fellow millworkers endured unimaginable living and working conditions and fought desperately for a better life.
Asheley
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first saw the advanced copies for The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash being circulated months ago, I got so excited. His books are among my very-favorites. His stories are always so layered and his characters sometimes seem so straightforward but they’re actually really complex. And I love the way they’re set in the dusty, gritty parts of North Carolina, which is my home.

The Last Ballad is a fiction story that is based on real history and real people. It tells a the story of the Loray Mill Stri
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870 followers
Wiley Cash is theNew York Times best selling author of The Last Ballad, A Land More Kind than Home, and This Dark Road to Mercy (William Morrow/HarperCollins). He currently serves as the writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina-Asheville and teaches in the Mountainview Low-Residency MFA. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and their two young daughters. Please visit wileycash.c ...more
“There is an old saying that every story, even your own, is either happy or sad depending on where you stop telling it. I believe I'll stop telling this one here.” 5 likes
“The trees along the road were mad with crows. The birds ruffled the leaves like a heavy wind, and their cries seemed to bore into Verchel’s ears.” 2 likes
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