Review: Leaving Lukens


Changes in your life bring you surprises that are often unexpected and unwarranted. Living in Lukens was safe and many thought they would never leave. But, the war ensued, lives were in danger and many of the residents of the small town decided to uproot and leave going to places like New Bern or across the river to find other safe havens free from the Nazi’s.

Some feared that they would invade and causes harm others like Ella Marie Hutchins loved living in Lukens and did not want to leave. But, life does not always go the way you want it to and sudden changes can often for be to the better or in some cases change the course of our life forever as one Ella finds out.

Can you hear the voices behind the stones? Can you see the faces of those gone by as each one’s story is safely buried beneath the san, cement and earth that houses their bodies and their souls? Remembering the descendants of Lukens is a yearly event for its residents. But, when Ella Marie returns after a fifty-year absence, although welcomed by her friends, they are curious and surprised and want the details of her life filled in. A short 15-minute boat ride is where our tale begins as Ella steps off the barge and walks slowly past each of the stones that belong to those she loved so dearly. Short and sweet words of remembrance promising to return once again, the memories flood through her mind like the blood in your veins and she begins telling her friends a story that you will never want to forget.

Take the journey back in time to 1942 along with Ella and her friends where a girl’s dreams are shattered, her life will be changed the course of the world set in many different directions. Welcome to Lukens. Hear the voices and the stories behind the stones. Life would change drastically for those living in Lukens including 17- year old Ella Maria Hutchins. It started with a young man named Jarrett who promised her the world and took it back in a flash. Drunk most of the time, never really trustworthy, Ella learns early on that this young man would do anything to take back a promise. Leaving for army training camp, Jarrett promises to spend one final day with Ella before leaving. But, a confession that most would understand sends him reeling with anger and away from her before she can really explain. Accosted by a young Nazi sailor when leaving a party after he got drunk Ella recounts the incident and how Griff saved her from further humiliation and fear. Unnerved by the incident she finally tells it to Jarrett who helps report it to the proper authorities and then becomes enraged thinking she was disloyal. What happens next is Ella story from start to finish as she and her family begin on new journey to a new place when Luken’s becomes unsafe and the teacher who is supposed to work with those left is no longer assigned. With the threat of the Nazis and the lack of employment available many of her friend’s families and hers will make the journey across the river to start over again. Ella will introduce the reader to her mother, Louise, her grandmother and you will learn their stories, their reactions to this young girl’s hopes and dreams and her destiny will no longer be mapped out as she wanted. Just what happens you will have to learn along with this reviewer as I continue my review of Leaving Lukens by author Laura Wharton?

How would moving to Oriental change Ella’s life? How would she feel about leaving her friends? But, there is much more to tell before Ella and her mom leave Lukens to embark on a new life, as Ella’s mom is about to remarry. Griff and Ella become fast friends and she learns how to treasure dive, explore the underwater world, find valuable artifacts, understand the history and free herself of the confines of living in Lukens and broadening her understanding of other people, places and the world as it is about to change. But, seeing the soldiers, marines and other military on an outing with Griff brings back the harsh realities of war that are right on their front door. Seeing the prisoners carted away is frightening yet Griff explains their final destiny and the gets tabled for a while.

Spending time with him in New Bern, meeting his close friends learning the reason why he named his boat the Susanna helps create a better understanding between them, strengthens their relationship. But, Jessica her best friend relates news of her own to Ella about her choices in life and Ella has to decide where she wants to wind up with her mom, with Griff or somewhere else. The history and research related to World War II, the Spanish treasures, the Nazi subplot creates a certain mystique about this story and the ever-evolving plot. Laura Wharton has definitely done her homework as she relates a cute story about Ella and Griff joining the guys in uniform at the USO and meeting Tyrone Power. The songs she remembers were some of my mom’s favorites and who would not want to comes front and center with Tyrone Power, no less dance with him. Griff has a calming personality and when Ella sees the soldiers and realizes war is inevitable he is able to alleviate her fears. But, things are about to change as they miss an elusive figure that is watching them in the background and Ella will come face to face with someone she hoped never to see again. Will Griff protect her or is he part of what is about to happen?

While on the Susanna helping Griff someone boards the boat, knocks her out and what happens next would bring chills down anyone’s spine as she comes front and center with the Nazi sailor from Lukens. With a gun held to his head Griff tries to calm her fears saying he had to do what they say and she should not do anything. But, you know Ella and what she does will definitely make you stand up and applaud but will she be able to out maneuver these men. The end result you just won’t believe and what he needed to do and why you will have to learn for yourself. As Ella and Griff try to turn the tables on the enemy and how they do it you just won’t believe and what and who her really is I cannot tell you. That is a classified secret that you will learn if you read the book. How she reacts to the entire incident and what happens to the enemy is quite exciting.

The changing world and the scenery that she experiences would definitely change her perspective on life and the many places she and Griff explore together. Peaceful and beautiful places would become covered with bodies, wreckage and much more before all is said and done. Lukens sounds like a perfect place to live and yet many will be leaving to find a safe haven.

When the truth comes full circle Ella will learn his real involvement in taking down a U-boat, capturing the enemy and working with the Pentagon. Imagine all of this and the excitement of being a part of it. Ella is not your ordinary 17-year-old teenager. Nor is she afraid of danger or taking on responsibility. So, why is the Navy angry with him? Why would his superior lie about a simple object and what will the end result be? Just how this all comes together and what part Ella plays in helping Griff sort this out you will definitely not believe as you read about the U-boat incident, the decoder and their unique and unbelievable plot. Deception, deceit, loyalty, friendship and so much more are part of this outstanding and intricate plot. As Ella becomes more involved in Griff’s world we see a marked change in her. Meeting his friends, helping him on his boat, diving, treasure hunting and much more Ella grows up right before the reader’s eyes and her perspective changes as the enemy is not only those called the Nazi’s but others hiding in plain sight.

As Ella draws Jessica into her time with Griff and she explores he talent as an artist she brings the reader back to where it all started as we once again hear and see the voices behind the stones that she will want to draw. Recreating pictures of Lukens and the history will and much more will forever keep Lukens alive and in their memories. But, Jessica disagrees.

What finally happens to Ella and Griff you will have to learn for youself. A reunion that brings back memories that each friend will never forget and one woman named Ella Marie Hutchins shares with you the reader. One storm that would change things forever and an end result that will surprise you as returning to her hometown and seeing her friends will help you understand as she relates the stories and events of those faces behind the stones. This is a great historical novel and I would love to learn more about Lukens before the War took if over.

From the author of The Pirate’s Bastard comes another Five Star Novel on in this case FIVE SPANISH TREASURED GOLD COINS.

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