Last year we told you about one of our favorite historical novels of 2017, The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash. Widely praised as a powerful, important, and timely work of fiction, The Last Ballad is about a single mother working in a cotton mill in 1929. Ella May hardly earns enough to take care of her children -- they live in the slums, don’t own shoes, and eat once a day if they are lucky. When she gets sidelined by the factory bosses, she decides to join the activists who are organizing the mill workers in Gastonia, NC, and nearby communities to for labor unions. Ella May’s unique contribution: she writes inspiring lyrics about workers struggles, and sings them to popular tunes with her beautiful voice. This novel is a stunning reminder about the sacrifices workers made before us to improve wages, working conditions, and employee treatment, and stands as a reminder that we all have something to contribute towards change.
“A powerful book that speaks to contemporary concerns through historical injustice… Cash vividly blends the archival with the imaginative… With care and steadiness, (Cash) has pulled from the wreckage of the past a lost moment of Southern progressivism. Perhaps fiction can help us bear the burden of Southern history.”
— New York Times Book Review
“Here, a time and a place and a tragedy written about many times before is rendered anew in vivid, devastating detail. Cash’s tightly wound and heavily researched novel is all the more heartbreaking because these struggles remain so resonant today.…It was an ugly time, but Cash gives kindness and tenderness equal space on the page. Strip away the history and the politics of the union battle, and there is another subject explored here: motherhood.”
— Our State
The Last Ballad is on sale now in paperback. If you are looking for a literary novel with weighty issues for your next book club pick, we strong recommend The Last Ballad. Wiley Cash is also available to Skype with your book club! Watch this space - in July, we’ll be posting info on how you can Skype with Wiley and receive a goody bag of books to share with your book club. Can’t wait until July to hear directly from the author? Click through to listen to a podcast interview with Wiley.