Thomas Mullen’s powerful historical novel, The Last Town on Earth, is a moving debut from a talented Canadian writer. The setting, Commonwealth, is a small peaceful town of the Pacific Northwest founded by the Worthy family to escape exploitation of mill workers. The deadly Spanish Flu of 1918 has started ravaging surrounding towns and the people of Commonwealth decide to quarantine themselves against contagion. “Guards are posted at the single road leading in and out of the town.” Philip Worthy, the adopted son of the village founder, is one of the guards. Meanwhile, “the ideals that define Commonwealth are being threatened from all sides.” WW1 is in full force, and America’s young enlisted soldiers are being slaughtered left and right. Conscientious objectors are thereby being targeted by ordinary citizens. “The fear of spies is rampant, and the loyalty of all Americans is under scrutiny.” When a lost and hungry American soldier insists on being allowed into the village, the guards must take action. Do they do the honourable thing and come to his aid, thereby risking the possible infection of the villagers? This becomes morality versus survival. They decide to shoot and bury him. An American soldier killed on American soil by American people—who, by the way, have not all registered for the selection process that might send them overseas to war.
A compelling and thought-provoking page-turner about the dark side of human nature in times of war.