The Last Town on Earth – one town’s fight against 1918 influenza epidemic

The Last Town on Earth

by admin on October 12, 2009

I first read The Last Town on Earth a couple of years ago and remembered it as I was reading one headline or another on the current Swine Flu situation. The Last Town on Earth is a fictionalized account of a tiny logging town, Commonwealth, in Washington during the 1918 influenza (Spanish Flu) epidemic. In order to save it’s residents, the town agrees to quarantine itself from the outside world.

Town residents take shifts as guards at the outskirts of town on the only road into town. Their orders are to shoot anyone who disobeys their quarantine and tries to gain passage into town. That plan is quickly tripped up when a soldier tiredly stumbles past the quarantine checkpoint and interacts with the guards. Afraid of possibly being infected with the flu, the town basically imprisons the soldier to keep him away from the residents.

In addition to how the town chooses to deal with the possibly infected soldier there is the additional plotline of the town’s socialistic and anti-war tendencies that are looked down upon by a rival town. The rival town, Timber Falls, has a chapter of the American Protective League whose existence was created by the United States government to root out any World War I dissenters and any labor movements with socialist tendencies. The climax of The Last Town on Earth has to do with the actions taken by the town of Timber Falls and the reaction of the leaders of Commonwealth.

I enjoy historical novels and this one had many layers to dissect. The main plot was the town’s fight to avoid the horrendous influenza outbreak, but right along with it was the decisions the town tried to make while remaining a utopia of sorts. I enjoyed The Last Town on Earth and with the current potential for a nasty flu season it makes for an interesting read.

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