• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

ICYMI: Wiley Cash's The Last Ballad explores race relations and the fight for dignity in a 1929 North Carolina mill camp community.

“There is an old saying that every story, even your own, is either happy or sad depending on where you stop telling it.”


Cash provides rich details of life in a mill camp in 1929 North Carolina. The Last Ballad explores race relations and complicated relationships within a largely segregated living but racially mixed working arrangement.

An individual tragic end also serves as a heroic sacrifice within a larger and extremely important fight for the dignity and conditions afforded by a union. This heart-wrenching struggle for survival and for dignity was at the heart of the book.

It took me a little time to get into Cash's Last Ballad. It was a slow build but worth riding Cash's wave to an affecting middle of the story and a powerful sequence of final events.

I really wish I’d read the final author’s note about Cash's personal links to the story before reading the book--the information there was fascinating, and I think would have lent even more power to my reading experience.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

I read The Last Ballad with my book club, and this week I reviewed When Ghosts Come Home, Wiley Cash's character-driven mystery set in 1980s Eastern North Carolina. Next I want to read Cash's A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy. Have you read either of these?

Wiley Cash's writing reminds me somewhat of that of Ron Rash, another wonderful North Carolina author.