Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Last Ballad : Book Review

Ella May worked the night shift at American Mill No. 2 and then came home to a small shack to take care of her four surviving children. It's a miracle that the four children haven't also succumbed to illness and exposure and starvation like her little Willie. She can never forgive herself for losing Willie.

As a single mother and a hard worker, Ella May is looking for something better or at least fair compensation and treatment for her efforts. She is drawn to the fliers announcing the union organizing rally in the next town and hitches a ride for the meeting. Inspired by the words of the union leaders and her own suffering, Ella May turns her anguish into song becomes a very public face to the movement. Only it's a movement with many powerful and dangerous enemies.

Ever since I read Wiley Cash's debut novel A Land More Kind Than Home, I have been a fan of his work. I'm drawn to Southern literature and his work encompasses much of the hardship and misfortune of the common working man/woman. The Last Ballad draws upon the true story of Ella May, a union fighter and single mother who simply wanted a better life for her children.

Cash does not shy away from the hard topics of alcoholism, violence, racism, privilege and poverty as well as the bitter battles between the mill owners and the unions. I found the novel very intriguing. Ella May is inspiring and noble in her cause as she joins with other union leaders from the North. Introducing a number of other characters to the story provides depth and richness to the overall picture. However, the ending is rather abrupt and I didn't feel like all of the characters and their stories were wrapped up satisfactorily.

Overall, Cash delivers again. The Last Ballad is a powerful novel paying homage to an American hero Ella May.

The Last Ballad is published by William Morrow and released in October 2017.

**I received a complimentary copy of the book. This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

1 comment:

Susan said...

I've read a couple of Wiley's books and while I like him as a writer, his stories are always so depressing! Sounds like this one isn't too cheery either. I'll probably pick it up anyway because it does sound intriguing.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!