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About the Book

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.

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Critical Praise

“The book shows several joyful, painful and sometimes contradictory aspects of what it means to be a father.” —Charlotte Observer on This Dark Road to Mercy

“Narrated in alternating voices, this book captures the reader’s attention from the start and never lets go. Readers who enjoyed Cash’s first book or who are fans of well-written Southern fiction will enjoy this novel.” —Library Journal (starred review) on This Dark Road to Mercy

“Exciting and suspenseful as well as moving, with a captivating heroine, this is a tremendous book.” —The Guardian (UK) on This Dark Road to Mercy

“Darkly mesmerizing.” —O Magazine on This Dark Road to Mercy

“A time capsule and at times an edgy thriller, but at its fine emotional center it’s all about what it means to be a father.” —Jill McCorkle, author of Life After Life on This Dark Road to Mercy

“A heartfelt and nuanced story, exploring the lines between fear and trust, redemption and love.” —Chicago Tribune on This Dark Road to Mercy

This Dark Road to Mercy will stick in readers’ minds, especially Cash’s heroine, feisty, red-haired and freckled Easter, who joins Scout and Kaye Gibbons’ Ellen Foster in the pantheon of Southern kids in literature.” —Wilmington Star News on This Dark Road to Mercy

This Dark Road to Mercy is a terrific, moving and propulsive novel: Harper Lee by way of Elmore Leonard.” —Jess Walter, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins on This Dark Road to Mercy

“The voice is Southern and oh so charming in This Dark Road to Mercy, a crime novel that’s also a road movie and a baseball tale and a wicked twist on Sixth-Grade Father-Daughter Night.” —New York Times Book Review on This Dark Road to Mercy

“With a couple of scenes so unnerving that they’ll make you yelp, and the most villainous preacher since Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter, it’s an electrifying debut.” —Financial Times (UK) on A Land More Kind than Home

“Wiley Cash’s novel embeds a tender coming-of-age story within a suspense-filled thriller. . . . [A] clear-sighted, graceful debut.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution on A Land More Kind than Home

“Wiley Cash’s debut novel tells a powerful story of lust, envy, [and] greed . . . Cash does an excellent job of building tension, and of making the impetus for all this damage a terrifying figure.” —Salisbury Post (NC) on A Land More Kind than Home

“Wiley Cash makes his debut with this fine, engaging novel, proving yet again that the South is an inexhaustible motherlode of literature. I’m sure he’ll garner comparisons to Harper Lee, perhaps even to Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor, but Wiley Cash is Wiley Cash—a new, strong Southern voice in American fiction.” —John Lawton, author of A Lily of the Field on A Land More Kind than Home

“Whew! Wiley Cash is the real deal and his first novel is an atmospheric crossroads filled with characters who long for better, but know that their best will never be good enough, is dense with stories intersecting like the branches in a laurel hell.” —Nancy Peacock, author of Life Without Water on A Land More Kind than Home

“This novel has great cumulative power. Before I knew it I was grabbed by the ankle and pulled down into a full-blown Greek tragedy.” —Gail Godwin, author of Evensong on A Land More Kind than Home

“This is a chilling story that isn’t easily forgotten. . . . and Cash has captured the rural southern dialect perfectly. It is an excellent novel.” —Oklahoma City Oklahoman on A Land More Kind than Home

“This book will knock your socks off. It’s so good to read a first novel that sings with talent. Wiley Cash has a beautifully written hit on his hands.” —Clyde Edgerton, author of The Night Train on A Land More Kind than Home

“The first thing that struck me about Wiley’s novel is the beautiful prose: the narrative is strong, clean, direct and economical. . . . I think this could be the beginning of a long, fruitful career.” —Ernest J. Gaines, author of A Lesson Before Dying on A Land More Kind than Home

“Spellbinding.” —Toronto Sun on A Land More Kind than Home

“Mysterious, and indirectly creepy, which will have a powerful effect on readers. . . . Riveting, disturbing and lyrical, this novel is full of surprises the entire way through and will have readers glued to it from the start.” —RT Book Reviews (top pick) on A Land More Kind than Home

“Mesmerizing . . . only Jess knows why his autistic older brother died on the very day he was taken into the church, and it’s his voice that we carry away from this intensely felt and beautifully told story.” —New York Times Book Review on A Land More Kind than Home

“I try to state the truth and dislike flinging superlatives about with mad abandon, but I have been so deeply impressed by this novel that only superlatives can convey the tenor of my thought: this is one of the most powerful novels I have ever read.” —Fred Chappell, author of Brighten the Corner Where You Are on A Land More Kind than Home

“Greek tragedy meets Southern Gothic . . . Evocative and quietly chilling, this novel of trust misplaced and love gone wrong is reason to hope for more from Wiley Cash.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer on A Land More Kind than Home

“Cinematic and symphonic: this is a compelling story revealed in a sequence of voices that are as pitch-perfect as they are irresistible. This is a wonderfully impressive debut: tender, muscled and unforgettable.” —Rikki Ducornet, author of The Fan Maker's Inquisition on A Land More Kind than Home

“Cash proves capable of handling dialect and multiple narrators while creating distinctive voices and fully developed characters. . . . The result is a compelling, fast-paced story.” —BookPage on A Land More Kind than Home

“Cash is a graceful and promising writer, and his story and characters will linger in readers’ memories.” —Booklist on A Land More Kind than Home

“Cash adeptly captures the rhythms of Appalachian speech, narrating his atmospheric novel in the voices of three characters . . . The story has elements of a thriller, but Cash is ultimately interested in how unscrupulous individuals can bend decent people to their own dark ends.” —Washington Post on A Land More Kind than Home

“As lyrical, beautiful, and uncomplicated as the classic ballads of Appalachia, Cash’s first novel is a tragic story of misplaced faith and love gone wrong . . . In a style reminiscent of Tom Franklin and John Hart, Cash captures the reader’s imagination.” —Library Journal (starred review) on A Land More Kind than Home

“Absorbing . . . Cash uses well-placed flashbacks to flesh out his characters . . . and to illuminate a familiar truth of Southern lit: Many are the ways that fathers fail their sons.” —Entertainment Weekly on A Land More Kind than Home

“A smooth, elegant, and enjoyable novel. . . . Mr. Cash has fantastic talent which is sure to make him a rising star in the literary world.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer on A Land More Kind than Home

“A riveting story! The writing is bold, daring, graceful, and engrossing.” —Bobbie Ann Mason, author of In Country on A Land More Kind than Home

“A much-respected debut with a genuine sense of place.” —Sacramento Bee on A Land More Kind than Home

“A beautifully written morality tale.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on A Land More Kind than Home

“Cash pulls no punches in this gorgeous, gut-wrenching novel, and that’s entirely as it should be for a story of desperate people. In an era when American workers are besieged as they haven’t been since the Great Depression, I can think of no more relevant novel for our times.” —Ben Fountain, Author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk on The Last Ballad

“Beautifully and courageously told. Wiley Cash dares give voice to people lost in the margins of history, and he brings to life their inspiring fight for justice with graceful prose, honesty and intensity, and best of all, a wonderful bigness of heart.” —Lydia Peelle, author of The Midnight Cool on The Last Ballad

“Wiley Cash reveals the dignity and humanity of people asking for a fair shot in an unfair world. Fraught with the turmoil of social change, The Last Ballad moves inexorably toward a devastating moment of reckoning. A timely and topical portrait of a community in crisis.” —Christina Baker Kline, author of A Piece of the World and Orphan Train

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062313119
  • ISBN 10: 0062313118
  • Imprint: William Morrow
  • On Sale: 10/03/2017
  • Pages: 384
  • List Price: 33.50 CAD
  • BISAC1: FICTION / Literary
  • BISAC2: FICTION / General
  • BISAC3: FICTION / Thrillers / Suspense

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