Posted by: Karen | November 9, 2017

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

Available now from Harper Audio. 9780062682024

From the Publisher:

“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.”


My recording experience:

Although we live in the same town, I met Wiley at the Virginia Festival of the Book several years ago. Since then I’ve run into him many times. Everywhere from various cultural events here in Wilmington to Wake n’ Bake donuts where we both happened to be treating our daughters. When he asked if I’d be interested in recording his third book, I didn’t have to be asked twice. I had loved his previous novels and knew the material would be filled with local characters and a story I could sink my teeth into.

I wasn’t disappointed, and not just because it was the most fun I had with an author in the prep phase – which you can hear about in our podcast at (there’s a taste of that in the video below.) This book is a must read (or listen), important issues of our time despite the fact that it’s based on a story that took place almost a hundred years ago.

Listen to a sample here:

Finally, many thanks to Wiley, for entrusting me with his book and then having the good graces to say this about my performance:



  1. Oh I am going to have get this for my dad (if he doesn’t already have it)

  2. Love the video clip! Looking forward to reading/listening to Mr, Cash’e latest book.

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