richf714, January 2, 2013 (view all comments by richf714)
This book is a good read which shows how our human nature reacts to external influences which are beyond our control. The historical backdrop makes for an interesting view on how folks react under trying circumstances.
Helen M Mendoza, December 17, 2011 (view all comments by Helen M Mendoza)
Although this is a first novel it is surprisingly well researched and polished. It has won more than one prize including the Fennimore prize for historical fiction. The book is set in the state of Washington during the last year of WWI and the flu epidemic. It celebrates the American genius for eccentricity, moral courage, and the march to a different drummer. The setting is a town founded in capitalist cash and idealism that follows the American tendency "to go it alone" until fate or human nature contrive to show that we all live interdependently and to try to ignore that is to choose a hard row to hoe. I hesitate to say too much about the plot because it is rather riveting but one character I personally found fascinating was the town's doctor. He is a man who was taught medicine in an apprentice system rife with theories of the aether and miasma of sickness yet exposed through one of his own mentees to the latest in germ theory of the time. The tension, the doubts he endures in the face of the flu epidemic are so moving and profoundly humbling. There is also an interesting and moving presentation of the Everett Washington "massacre" in a flashback of one of the main characters. The presentation of the so-called average working class American in this book is so truthful. It is an interesting contrast to Camus' The Plague but of equal moral worth.
SusanH, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by SusanH)
It is the autumn of 1918 and a world war and an influenza epidemic rage outside the isolated Utopian logging community of Commonwealth, Wash. In an eerily familiar climate of fear, rumor and patriotic hysteria, the town enacts a strict quarantine, posting guards at the only road into town. A weary soldier approaches the gate on foot and refuses to stop. Shots ring out, setting into motion a sequence of events that will bring the town face-to-face with some of the 20th-century's worst horrors. Mullen's ambitious debut is set against a plausibly sketched background, including events such the Everett Massacre (between vigilantes and the IWW), the political repression that accompanied the U.S. entry into WWI and the rise of the Wobblies.
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