Wiley Cash’s new novel, The Last Ballad, squarely lands the North Carolina-based author as one of the most prominent southern writers working today. Building upon the stylistic format of his previous two novels—A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy, which he presented at the 2016 Lewisburg Literary Festival—Cash continues to piece stories together through various narrators, an effect that expands and deepens the seemingly casual connections between his characters, giving the reader various perspectives from which to experience the narrative.
In this lyrical, enthralling novel, Cash heads to the Appalachian foothills of Gaston County, North Carolina, to tell a moving tale inspired by a real-life textile strike in 1929. The book’s heroine, Ella May Wiggins, is a single mother working multiple double shifts at the local Bessemer City textile plant for a little over nine dollars a week. When the union shows up, things change rather quickly and we see how the town, its workers, the mill owners, and the press all react with varying degrees of sympathy and rage. Rife with issues of race, gender, and American Capitalism, many of the novel’s themes are relevant today and resonate in our own socio-political environment.
The Last Ballad is a must-read for fans of historical fiction and southern literature, and the reader will find echoes of Steinbeck throughout its nearly 600 pages. Despite its length (the book is Cash’s longest novel to date), the book reads like a historical thriller due to its clever construct. This is one you will want to introduce to your reading group. To learn more about Wiley Cash and to purchase his novels, visit his website at www.wileycash.com.