♦ Single Mom Takes a Stand in Wiley Cash’s ‘The Last Ballad’ [REVIEW]

Textile mill workers

In 1929, one woman took a stand for what is right and changed the course of American history. Discover her riveting story in Wiley Cash’s The Last Ballad. (Photo courtesy William Morrow, YouTube)

Diamond Review BannerThere have always been unsung heroes in America’s history, people seldom recognized for their significant impact on our culture and way of life, even when those changes came with great personal sacrifice. In Wiley Cash’s new novel, The Last Ballad, readers are introduced to one such woman in a book that is one of the most enthralling, authentic, and relevant novels we have read in some time.


William Morrow

Ella May isn’t pretty. Her hands are work worn and tired. She’s lost a husband, buried a child, and has another on the way. She can barely remember a time when she wasn’t working in a textile mill 72 hours a week for a meager nine dollars, barely enough to keep a little food in her children’s growling stomachs.

Every night, she risks life and limb just to stay on the right side of destitute, slaving away for employers who will never know or care what she goes through on a daily basis. She lives in a tiny shack in the Appalachian foothills and is the only white woman in a community full of blacks, not that it matters to her any. Her best friend is black, and Ella thinks they all deserve better.

Then one day someone slips a note in her hand inviting her to a meeting of the National Textile Workers Union. The group seeks equality and demands a standard $20 minimum wage and a 40 hour/5 day work week. Ella knows she could lose her job if she attends the meeting, but she keeps the leaflet in her pocket, clinging to it tenaciously like a tiny bit of hope, as she ponders whether or not to attend. Her courageous decision irrevocably changes her life, and those around her, forever.

The Last Ballad is raw and gritty, brutally honest, and heartbreakingly real. And yet is also a transcendent novel about facing injustice head on, led by a woman who demonstrated more bravery than many of us have ever had to summon in our lifetime. Although set in America’s past, this tale is timeless and is certain to resonate with readers in today’s uncertain economic and political climate. It is one of those rich, layered novels that makes us all examine ourselves closely and ask tough questions, the first of which is, “What would I do if faced with the same situation?”

Wiley Cash writes with a languid, thoughtful prose that slides down as easily as a mint julep on hot day. His work is so refreshing and delicious, we just want more of it. Cinematic in scope, majestic and as sprawling as the Appalachians themselves, Cash captures every nuance of Ella May’s fascinating life. He deftly draws us in as he changes scenes so casually it feels as though he is simply turning a kaleidoscope, leaving us captivated by work so lovely and complex we cannot look away.  With The Last Ballad, Wiley Cash has earned the right to belly up to the bar to sit alongside the likes of E.L. Doctorow, Harper Lee, and Pat Conroy. Like them, he makes us reflect on the past and ponder society’s toughest dilemmas with gratitude.


Wiley Cash

Wiley Cash
(Photo by Mallory Brady Cash)

Wiley Cash is the award-winning author and New York Times bestselling author of A Land More Kind Than Home and the acclaimed The Dark Road to MercyHe won the SIBA Book Award, was a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and has been nominated for many more awards.

A native of North Carolina, he has held residency positions at Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, and is the writer in residence at the University of North Carolina, Asheville. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, with his wife and two daughters.

Visit his home on the Web at WileyCash.com, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

By Wiley Cash
304 pgs. William Morrow. $26.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPurchase The Last Ballad at one of these fine online retailers: HarperCollins, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

The Last Ballad is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

The Last Ballad Giveaway

Congratulations to Elizabeth Vollbach of Bruce, Michigan. She just won a copy of The Last Ballad for her personal library! Although this contest ended October 27, 2017, stay tuned for more opportunities to win other exciting books.


About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to ♦ Single Mom Takes a Stand in Wiley Cash’s ‘The Last Ballad’ [REVIEW]

  1. Jathan Fink says:

    Reblogged this on Jadeworks Entertainment and commented:

    For The Last Ballad, novelist Wiley Cash dug deep into history to tell the true story of one remarkable woman. The result is a moving portrait of an incredible lady who changed history. It also happens to be one of the best novels we’ve read this decade. Period.

  2. This book is going on my TBR list for sure. Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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