This is Thomas Mullen's debut novel and he received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Historical Fiction for it! The novel is set in the small Pacific Northwest town of Commonwealth during the the 1918 flu epidemic.
As the book opens, the town of Commonwealth is threatened from all sides – World War I is raging, and with the fear of spies rampant, the loyalty of all Americans is coming under scrutiny. Meanwhile, the flu epidemic has fallen across the region striking down surrounding communities.
Commonwealth votes to quarantine itself against the flu and guards are posted at the single road leading in and out of town. But, a 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 trigger a series of events and consequences throughout Commonwealth escalating until every human value – love, patriotism, community, family, friendship – not to mention the town’s very survival, is in question.