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The Last Town on Earth

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  6,069 ratings  ·  980 reviews
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
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published August 29th 2006 by Random House (NY) (first published January 1st 2006)
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Average rating 3.63  · 
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 ·  6,069 ratings  ·  980 reviews

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Dorie  - Cats&Books :)
Story of a small town in the Pacific Northwest during the influenza epidemic of 1916. The founders and inhabitants of the town of Commonwealth decided to quarantine itself in an effort to keep the flu from entering the town.

The quarantine affects many of the people in different ways. During the guarding of the town, Graham, shoots and kills a soldier that tries to enter the town. This deeply affects Phillip, his young fellow guard who has looked up to Graham in the past.

In the end the influenza
Tara Rock
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4-l/2 Stars. My timing in reading this excellent story could not have been better. The townspeople of a small community have posted guards and quarantined their town during the flu of 1918. The on-going war and the ensuing conscientious objectors all provide an exciting and well written novel.
Apr 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
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’s a ...more
Jan 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
After reading Mullen's second book, "The Many Deaths of the Firefly Brothers" for review and finding it less than notable I thought I should read Mullen's debut novel which received such favorable reviews. It far surpasses his second effort. The characters are finely drawn, the setting superbly described, and a number of social issues aptly addressed with a clear application of good historical research.

Mullen deftly weaves the strands of World War One, the Spanish Influenza epidemic, ahd the Ame
Aug 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Debbie Zapata
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saturdaymx
This book is intense. The story deals with a mill town in Washington state during WWI. Charles Worthy created the town and hopes to run it and his lumber mill in a utopian way, with better working conditions for the men and better living conditions for their families. It is a social experiment and a dream for everyone, and seems to be working.

Until the Spanish flu pandemic arrives in the nearby town of Timber Falls. What will Charles do to protect his dream from the deadly flu? How will the deci
Elizabeth  Fuller
Feb 16, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Chris Dietzel
I was very interested in this historical fiction with an apocalyptic premise. The story presented a small town worried about big world issues. Two things irked me about it though. The first was the cover to cover loading of praise from national publications saying how great the book was. Very few books can live up to unanimous industry praise and this was one that could not. There is nothing wrong with the story or the writing but there is nothing spectacular about it either. That makes me give ...more
Nov 27, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
During the 1918 pandemic there were towns and communities in the rural Western United States which were so terrified of the flu that they quarantined themselves and posted armed guards to prevent people from entering. This work of fiction, first published in 2006, imagined what could have happened in one such community.

The setting is in a fictional remote logging town called Commonwealth. As a means of self-preservation the townspeople have decided to cut off all contacts with the outside world
Jeanette (Again)
Oct 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jeanette (Again) by: Julie
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
John Wiltshire
Dec 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I do love apocalyptic novels and this one is based around a real apocalyptic scenario--the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak at the end of the First World War.
A small, remote logging town decides to quarantine themselves, setting up a roadblock with armed guards.
As with all plans, the weakest link is always the human beings themselves. Too many humans are inherently weak and liberal kind and thoughtful when the realities of life are anything but.
And how interesting the premise of this book is when th
Apr 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Totally enthralling from start to finish. Although it was fiction, it actually was modeled on real stories that occurred during the 1918 Spanish flu. Given our current risk of another global pandemic, it was also quite thought provoking causing me to wonder what I and others would do if faced with such circumstances. Beautifully written, well researched.
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am blown away that this was a debut novel for this author. My favorite books are adult coming of age books. This is that and so much more. It is historical fiction—well researched and you will learn so much about WWI, the Spanish influenza, and the labor movement. But for me, it was also a book about morality and how your ideals can slip so easily based on circumstance. It is beautifully written with unforgettable characters. It will stay with me for a long time. I probably should rate this fo ...more
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
How the fuck can this be someone's first novel? What an outstanding work! While Thomas Mullen's first, it is the third novel of his I've read. The first two being Darktown and Lightning Men of the Darktown Series. The Last Town On Earth puts Mullen into my favorite current writers, I cannot stress enough how excellent a writer he is. He does everything so well that it's hard to pinpoint what makes his style so enjoyable. At times I want to think of him as a poor man's version of so and so but re ...more
Mullen did a lot of research for this book--resistance to WWI, the Spanish influenza, logging and lumber mills and logger's rights/unions. He puts all that research in this one book, and I think he could have fleshed the story out more and made an epic tale to make use of all his research, and added it in small bites vs. dumps of several pages.

Or conversely, he could have written 2-3 books with all the research and made this one smaller.

The story was okay. I kept expecting parts introduced ear
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Although being quarantined myself helped me to get right into this novel about the 1918 Spanish flu, the characters immediately drew me in! Great writing and gripping plot. Excited to read his other novels!
May 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Quite the book to read during the COVID-19 quarantine! I enjoyed this book and learning more about the 1918 flu pandemic. My grandmother died of the Spanish flu but my Mother never told us any details, just how sad she was her whole life to lose her mother at such a young age. So, learning about the sickness is of great interest to me. On to The Great Influenza by J. Barry.
Nov 02, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Gilda Felt
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
I’d never heard about the towns that quarantined themselves during the Spanish Flu epidemic, so that immediately drew my interest. The story is very well told, with each person’s story slowly brought to light. And, given the very nature of the town, many are not as they seem.

Philip Worthy is not just worthy in name. He’s the central focus of the story, yet is an excellent conduit for the reader to learn about the other characters. His empathy softens what could be very unpleasant natures in othe
Oct 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 26, 2009 added it
Shelves: audiobooks, 2015
Grim and a little long. Too many characters. But there were many good things about this book - the antiwar sentiments, the socialism, the quiet feminism. I never quite believed the main character was 16. And when they talked about the "other" town, I zoned out. Cool stuff about contagion. I must say I appreciated the book a lot more when I heard the author's notes about his research and inspiration. The subject matter is fascinating and I'm glad this book was written. I just wish he'd cleaned it ...more
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
The Last Town on Earth is a wonderfully written book that pits extreme opposites against one another during the tumultuous period of WWI and the disastrous Spanish Flu epidemic. Patriotic duty verses conscientious objectors, capitalism versus socialism and government authority versus anti-authority rebellion square off with earth shattering consequences for the small American town of Commonwealth. This novel will leave you deep in thought, no matter what your political views, long after you have ...more
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.
Nov 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: generalfiction
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.
Feb 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
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Thomas Mullen is the author of Darktown, an NPR Best Book of the Year, which has been shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Southern Book Prize, the Indies Choice Book Award, has been nominated for two Crime Writers Assocation Dagger Awards, and is being developed for television by Sony Pictures with executive producer Jamie Foxx; The Last Town on Earth, which was named Best Debut ...more

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