Excerpt from The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Last Ballad

by Wiley Cash

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash X
The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2017, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 300 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Gary Presley
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Excerpt
The Last Ballad

Ella May knew she wasn't pretty, had always known it. She didn't have to come all the way down the mountain from Tennessee to Bessemer City, North Carolina, to find that out. But here she was now, and here she'd been just long enough for no other place in her memory to feel like home, but not quite long enough for Bessemer City to feel like home either.

She sat on the narrow bench in the office of American Mill No. 2—the wall behind her vibrating with the whir of the carding machines, rollers, and spinners that raged on the other side, with lint hung up in her throat and lungs like tar—reminding herself that she'd already given up any hope of ever feeling rooted again, of ever finding a place that belonged to her and she to it. Instead of thinking thoughts like those, Ella turned and looked at Goldberg's brother's young secretary where she sat behind a tidy desk just a few feet away. The soft late-day light that had already turned toward dusk now picked its way through the windows behind the girl. The light lay upon the girl's dark, shiny hair and caused it to glow like some angel had just lifted a hand away from the crown of her head. The girl was pale and soft, her cheeks brushed with rouge and her lips glossed a healthy pink. She wore a fine powder-blue dress with a spray of artificial, white spring flowers pinned to the lapel. She read a new copy of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and she laughed to herself and wet her finger on her tongue and turned page after page while Ella watched.

How old could that girl be? Ella wondered. Twenty? Twenty-five? Ella was only twenty-eight herself, but she felt at least two, three times that age. She stared at the girl's dainty, manicured hands as they turned the pages, and then she looked down at her own hands where they rested upturned in her lap, her fingers intertwined as if they'd formed a nest. She unlocked her fingers and placed her palms flat against her belly, thought about the new life that had just begun to stir inside her, how its stirring often felt like the flutter of a bird's wing. She didn't know whether or not what she felt was real, so she'd decided not to say a word about it to Charlie, not to mention a thing to anyone aside from her friend Violet.

Charlie had blown into Bessemer City that winter just like he'd blown into other places, and Ella knew that one day he'd eventually blow out the same way he'd come in. He didn't have children or a family or anything else to tether him to a place where he didn't want to be.

"I hadn't never wanted a child," he'd said after they'd known each other for a month. "I just never found the right woman to care for a child the way I want it cared for." He'd come up behind Ella and spread his palm over her taut belly as if trying to keep something from spilling out. She'd felt his hand press against the hollowed-out space between her ribs and her hips. She was always so racked with hunger that she found it hard to believe that her body offered any resistance at all. "But who's to say I'm always going to feel that way?" he'd said. "I might want a family of my own just yet." Maybe he'd meant it then, and, if so, she hoped he still meant it now.

Perhaps it was the soft thrash of wings against the walls of her belly that made Ella think further of birds, and she considered how her thin, gnarled hands reminded her of a bird's feet. She placed her palms on her knees, watched her knuckles rise like knobby mountains, saw her veins roll beneath her skin like blue worms that had died but never withered away. What was left of her fingernails were thick and broken, and it was laughable to imagine that someone like Ella would ever spend the time it would take to use a tiny brush to color such ugly things.

  • 1
  • 2

Excerpted from The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash. Copyright © 2017 by Wiley Cash. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: We Set the Dark on Fire
    We Set the Dark on Fire
    by Tehlor Mejia
    On the island of Medio, a wall separates the wealthy elite from those less fortunate who lack the ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Leopard, Red Wolf
    Black Leopard, Red Wolf
    by Marlon James
    If you are looking for an indulgent, escapist fantasy, Black Leopard, Red Wolf may not be for you. ...
  • Book Jacket: That Time I Loved You
    That Time I Loved You
    by Carianne Leung
    Carrianne Leung was a Toronto Book Award finalist for That Time I Loved You as well as for her debut...
  • Book Jacket: The Pianist from Syria
    The Pianist from Syria
    by Aeham Ahmad
    Aeham Ahmad became famous as the face of Syrian suffering when a photo of him playing piano in the ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    My Lovely Wife
    by Samantha Downing

    Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this wildly compulsive debut thriller.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Year of the War
    by Susan Meissner

    A little-known story of WWII with great resonance for our times.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao

An extraordinary and heart-rending tale of two girls with all the odds against them.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win The Summer Country

Win up to 12 copies to share with friends or your book club!

A sweeping epic of lost love, lies, jealousy, and rebellion set in colonial Barbados.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D T T! Full S A!

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.