Reading program tackles Spanish flu book

Events are planned in conjunction with the reading of 'The Last Town on Earth.'


WALLA WALLA -- Whitman College is inviting area residents to join first-year students in reading "The Last Town on Earth," then participating in discussions that include a visit by the book's author.

Since 1998, Whitman College has assigned its incoming freshman students a summer read, that is then discussed with the start of school. The program launched with "The Visit," a 1956 play by Friedrich Durrenmatt. Last year, students read the graphic novel "The Complete Persepolis" by Marjane Satrapi, which is an autobiographical account of Satrapi's childhood in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.

"The Last Town on Earth," by Thomas Mullen, is a work of historical fiction that focuses on the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Mullen's story is set in a fictional Washington state town whose leaders are trying to keep the flu away by denying people access in or out of the town. The book poses the moral dilemma of whether to let a sick stranger through its borders.

Muller's story was named Best Debut Novel of 2006 by USA Today, was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year, and received the James Fennimore Cooper Prize for excellence in historical fiction.

Whitman College is hosting two discussions at Cordiner Hall that are open to the public. The first is a faculty panel on Aug. 29 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. On Sept. 21, Mullen will discuss his book starting at 7:30 p.m. His talk will be followed by a book-signing.


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