From the author of the #1 bestseller Beneath a Scarlet Sky comes a new historical novel inspired by one family’s incredible story of daring, survival, and triumph.
In late March 1944, as Stalin’s forces push into Ukraine, young Emil and Adeline Martel must make a terrible decision: Do they wait for the Soviet bear’s intrusion and risk being sent to Siberia? Or do they reluctantly follow the wolves—murderous Nazi officers who have pledged to protect “pure-blood” Germans?
The Martels are one of many families of German heritage whose ancestors have farmed in Ukraine for more than a century. But after already living under Stalin’s horrifying regime, Emil and Adeline decide they must run in retreat from their land with the wolves they despise to escape the Soviets and go in search of freedom.
Caught between two warring forces and overcoming horrific trials to pursue their hope of immigrating to the West, the Martels’ story is a brutal, complex, and ultimately triumphant tale that illuminates the extraordinary power of love, faith, and one family’s incredible will to survive and see their dreams realized.
I truly adored Beneath a Scarlet Sky also narrated by Will Damron. When I saw that Marc T Sullivan had written another historical novel, I didn’t hesitate to order the audiobook.
This is once more a tale of survival and resilience.
I don’t know what’s true history and what’s fiction as the author explains that he had to fill in some blanks in the story, but just knowing that Emil survived the camp, that Emil and Adelina survived famine several times and that they had to be bold to escape just makes it an extraordinary feat!
As always, when reading these stories about people surviving WWII, I am left pondering why we are complaining. What do we have to complain really, compared to what these people went through?
It leaves me humbled.
Now let’s get back to the story and my feelings about it.
I must confess that I had a hard time going into the story. Maybe because I am not familiar with history in Ukraine when the war was raging?
Whatever the reason, I needed some chapters to find my bearings.
But soon enough, I was engrossed into Emil and Adelina Martel’s family saga.
At the beginning of the story, Emil, Adelina and their children will leave their village, protected by the SS. They’ll be joined by Emil’s parents and sister: Johann, Karoline and his sister Rese. And then Adelina, mother and sister will join them too: Lydia and Malia.
Going with the SS was not really a first choice for the Martel but rather a default choice as they new the Russian bear they lived under and didn’t want to fall back under Staline’s regime of fear and injustice.
We’ll go back and forth between 1944 and their journey and the years 1920, when Staline starved some of his population, like the Martel, to bring them to heel.
The author went to great detail to describe how, if you did better than the average citizen, you were sent to the mines because the regime would not tolerate that kind of wealth.
Reading all what the Martels went through was truly hard at times. I just wanted to fast forward to be past some events because they knew true loss. There is drama in that story and what makes it even more impactful is that we know that it DID happen to real people.
Faith is also at the center of the story. Because how can you still believe in a God or in a Universal entity when you see people committing atrocities to others. When you have tried to always do the right thing, you still are not rewarded but tested every day, hit by tremendous loss? How can you keep your faith?
I found that part very interesting as it called to my heart and indeed, made me think. There is also a lesson to be learned there, that some will laugh at while others, like me, will make their own.
What also sets The Last Green Valley apart from other WWII stories I have read so far is that we get to follow German people, and not Jewish people or people who were invaded by Germany.
And I think it’s very important as it reminds us that of course, not all Germans agreed with Hitler’s vision. Not all Germans were killers.
And it also reveals the perversity of the Nazi regime, forcing good people to make impossible choices, choices that would eat their souls out for the years to come.
The Last Green Valley is a powerful and dramatic family saga, inspired by true events, that will send you on an impossible journey for survival and freedom, from the Ukrainian plains to Romanian mountains going through to the cold of Poland in winter and beyond. It reminds us of perseverance and if we truly have faith, if we try again and again and again, we can make our dreams come true.
Thanks for reading!