cover image The Last Ballad

The Last Ballad

Wiley Cash. Morrow, $26.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-267073-1

Cash (A Land More Kind than Home) transports readers into the world of real-life ballad singer Ella May Wiggins, a central figure in workers’ battle for unionization in North Carolina textile mills, who was shot and killed on Sept. 14, 1929. Alone, pregnant, caring for six sick children, and frightened of losing her job if she takes another day off, Ella uses her Sunday to hitch a ride to a union gathering. Quickly recognized for her courage after fighting off anti-union attackers, she’s asked to share a song with the crowd: “We leave our homes in the morning,/ We kiss our children good-bye./ While we slave for the bosses,/ Our children scream and cry.” Her message connects, and she instantly becomes a sensation. With this unlikely platform and her unexpected power, Ella May attempts to integrate unions across North Carolina mills, attracting the wrath of union busters, segregationists, and the powerful wealthy class. This suspenseful, moving novel is a story of struggle and personal sacrifice for the greater good that will resonate with readers of John Steinbeck or Ron Rash. (Oct.)

This review has been corrected. A previous version listed the wrong imprint.