The Last Ballad (Hardcover)

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"Wiley Cash breathes life into this fictionalized account of the very real Ella May Wiggins, who fought for social and racial justice in the early 20th century. Ella May struggled to raise her four children alone, with another on the way, by working at the local textile mill. When the unions came to town, Ella May made a decision that would alter her life, and the lives of her family and friends. At her very first union rally, Ella May showed immense courage when she faced off against anti-union thugs, and became a unifying voice with her heartfelt ballads dedicated to the mill workers. I’m ecstatic that Wiley Cash re-discovered Ella May. She was a brave and extraordinary woman. This is an enthralling tale of struggle and courage, injustice, and hope. This book needs to be read by everyone!"--Reviewed by Susan

— From Susan Recommends

Description


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 novel, set in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina in 1929 and inspired by actual events. The chronicle of an ordinary woman's struggle for dignity and her rights in a textile mill, The Last Ballad is a moving tale of courage in the face of oppression and injustice, with the emotional power of Ron Rash's Serena, Dennis Lehane's The Given Day, and the unforgettable films Norma Rae and Silkwood.

Twelve times a week, twenty-eight-year-old Ella May Wiggins makes the two-mile trek to and from her job on the night shift at American Mill No. 2 in Bessemer City, North Carolina. The insular community considers the mill's owners--the newly arrived Goldberg brothers--white but not American and expects them to pay Ella May and other workers less because they toil alongside African Americans like Violet, Ella May's best friend. While the dirty, hazardous job at the mill earns Ella May a paltry nine dollars for seventy-two hours of work each week, it's the only opportunity she has. Her no-good husband, John, has run off again, and she must keep her four young children alive with whatever work she can find.

When the union leaflets begin circulating, Ella May has a taste of hope, a yearning for the better life the organizers promise. But the mill owners, backed by other nefarious forces, claim the union is nothing but a front for the Bolshevik menace sweeping across Europe. To maintain their control, the owners will use every means in their power, including bloodshed, to prevent workers from banding together. On the night of the county's biggest rally, Ella May, weighing the costs of her choice, makes up her mind to join the movement--a decision that will have lasting consequences for her children, her friends, her town--indeed all that she loves.

Seventy-five years later, Ella May's daughter Lilly, now an elderly woman, tells her nephew about his grandmother and the events that transformed their family. Illuminating the most painful corners of their history, she reveals, for the first time, the tragedy that befell Ella May after that fateful union meeting in 1929.

Intertwining myriad voices, Wiley Cash brings to life the heartbreak and bravery of the now forgotten struggle of the labor movement in early twentieth-century America--and pays tribute to the thousands of heroic women and men who risked their lives to win basic rights for all workers. Lyrical, heartbreaking, and haunting, this eloquent novel confirms Wiley Cash's place among our nation's finest writers.

Product Details
ISBN: 9780062313119
ISBN-10: 0062313118
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 384
Language: English