Common Reading Programs that have selected The Last Town on Earth:
Colleges and Universities:
Bowling Green State University
Montana State University - Billings
Murray State University
Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program
University of Arizona
University of South Carolina Aiken
Western Michigan University Honors Program
Central Catholic High School (Toledo, OH)
"One City, One Book":
A Tale For Three Counties (Batavia, NY)
Together We Read (Stanwood and Camano Island, WA)
Set against the backdrop of one of the most virulent epidemics that America ever experienced–the 1918 flu epidemic–Thomas Mullen’s powerful, sweeping first novel is a tale of morality in a time of upheaval.
Deep in the mist-shrouded forests of the Pacific Northwest is a small mill town called Commonwealth, conceived as a haven for workers weary of exploitation. For Philip Worthy, the adopted son of the town’ s founder, it is a haven in another sense–as the first place in his life he’s had a loving family to call his own.
And yet, the ideals that define this outpost are being threatened from all sides. A world war is raging, and with the fear of spies rampant, the loyalty of all Americans is coming under scrutiny. Meanwhile, another shadow has fallen across the region in the form of a deadly illness striking down vast swaths of surrounding communities.
When Commonwealth votes to quarantine itself against contagion, guards are posted at the single road leading in and out of town, and Philip Worthy is among them. He will be unlucky enough to be on duty when a cold, hungry, tired–and apparently ill–soldier presents himself at the town’s doorstep begging for sanctuary. The encounter that ensues, and the shots that are fired, will have deafening reverberations throughout Commonwealth, escalating until every human value–love, patriotism, community, family, friendship–not to mention the town’s very survival, is imperiled.
Inspired by a little-known historical footnote regarding towns that quarantined themselves during the 1918 epidemic, The Last Town on Earth is a remarkably moving and accomplished debut.
"Author Thomas Mullen brought a fresh, intellectual and creative approach to the students and faculty of Toledo Central Catholic High School in our annual author visit event that celebrates reading and writing. Tom meet with our community, students, and faculty to shared his love of writing, research and cultivating curiosity in life. Indeed, he inspired our students to look at history from multiple perspectives. Without doubt, I would recommend Thomas Mullen and his book The Last Town on Earth to any high school looking for ways to motivate their students to make curricular connections while becoming lifelong learners and readers." –Marie A. Arter, Director of Curriculum, Central Catholic High School
"Thomas Mullen has what Jesuits call an intuitive ability to 'meet students where they are, then bring them to where they need to go.' In both his public lecture and his participation in classes, he was able to engage students about the very challenging ideas and ethical dilemmas he explores in The Last Town on Earth. He consistently challenged students to think through the dilemmas themselves, and treated students with intellectual and ethical respect. He is a consummate author for a college audience." --Dr. Karen Adkins, Associate Dean, Regis College
"Thomas Mullen’s fine first novel The Last Town on Earth was selected as the text for Murray State University’s first-year-experience reading program for 2010-2011. In addition to reading of the novel by all incoming students and extensive use of the work in classes and workshops throughout the year, a key component of the program is having the author visit our campus to discuss the work with students so that those students may understand that books are written by real people and that being part of an intellectual community involves sharing ideas about the things we read and experience. We could not have asked for a better presenter than Mr. Mullen. He gave of himself, his knowledge, and his time freely to both our students and our faculty, charming and enlightening each one of the many groups with which he came in contact during his two days with us. He was both eloquent and personable in talking with our students, showing genuine interest in them and in their ideas. Students and faculty alike loved his book from the outset, but they appreciated it even more after being able to frame it in the context of his impressive personal presence. There are great authors and there are great presenters, but they are all too rarely found in the same person: Thomas Mullen is one of those precious few, and I recommend him most highly. Thoughtful reading may actually have a chance of survival in our society if artists like Tom Mullen keep showing young people the magic of words, both written and spoken."
–Dean Ted Brown, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, Murray State University
“Not only is Tom Mullen’s The Last Town on Earth a compelling read, it was an outstanding choice for our Honors College Freshman Fall Welcome. Our students were drawn to the interlocking themes of morality, compassion for one’s fellow man, the meaning of community, and the all-consuming ethical dilemma the citizens of Commonwealth were forced to address. This wonderful novel was the centerpiece of an entire week of programming designed to engage our students in reflective thinking and lively debate.” –Nicholas Andreadis M.D., Dean, Lee Honors College, Western Michigan University
“Thomas Mullen’s book, The Last Town on Earth, inspired our students to think about choices and consequences. Mr. Mullen is not only an extraordinarily gifted writer, he is also an engaging speaker, wonderful listener, and an inspiration for students of all ages.” –Sarolta Anna Takács, Dean, School of Arts and Sciences Honors Program, Rutgers University
“The Last Town on Earth is one of those books our students continue to talk about and reference. Though set in an era long ago, one can’t help but think about the timeliness of this haunting piece of historical fiction because of the H1N1 situation we find ourselves in currently. Mullen’s characters are plentiful and carefully crafted which enabled our students to more easily engage with the book and identify with the moral dilemmas faced by the characters. Mullen’s interactions with students during his campus visit gave them the opportunity to delve even deeper–not only into the characters and plot but into the writing process. He was patient and accessible–students responded well to Mullen which resulted in one of the best author visits we have had in the ten years we have had the program!” –Colleen Boff, FYE Librarian, Bowling Green State University
“Thomas Mullen’s The Last Town on Earth served as a remarkable "one book" for the freshman class entering Montana State University Billings in 2010. The book was required for all freshmen enrolled in our service learning seminar, ACS 294, which had 15 sections with some 300 students in it. The class followed the narrative about challenges to community life, and used it in an applied fashion, involving students in service learning projects to teach students about the meaning of community and citizenship.” –Dr. Sarah N. Keller, Associate Professor, Dept. of Communication & Theatre, Montana State University Billings
WINNER 2007 - James Fennimore Cooper Prize
Thomas Mullen was born in Rhode Island and lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife. He is at work on a new novel.