September 25, 2006 12:00 PM

by Thomas Mullen

REVIEWED BY ANDREW ABRAHAMS

FICTION

In his extraordinary debut, Mullen imagines the town of Commonwealth, Wash., as a utopian mill community struggling to quarantine itself against the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. Citizens guard the town’s entrance against intruders, but when soldiers appear, two friends find themselves at a moral crossroads. Mullen gracefully interweaves story arcs—a poignant romance among them—and evokes a powerful sense of place. Set during an unpopular war and highlighting the human desire to stave off the world’s horrors, his tale is deeply resonant.

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