The Last Green Valley by Mark Sullivan is a fictionalized account of the real-life story of the Martel family’s harrowing experiences during and after World War II. Sullivan met with Will and Walt Martel, who were children during this time. He traveled to Europe with the brothers and interviewed other survivors to craft this remarkable story of faith and survival.
What possesses men to do such evil? Were they even human? Couldn’t they see that when you kill someone or destroy a holy place, the faith always goes on? Don’t they see that in broken hearts and ruins, something always glows?
Emil and Adeline Martel, their sons, Will and Walt, and other extended family members were part of the Black Sea Germans who lived and farmed in Ukraine. Their lives had become miserable under Stalin, who had tried to starve the people and conscripted men to work in mines and the military. German commander Heinrich Himmler decided this group was of pure Aryan blood. He offered them protection to travel to Poland during 1944. After a grueling and dangerous six-week journey by cart, known as “The Long Trek”, they arrived and were given the former homes and clothing of Jewish families that had been killed. Because Emil Martel had previously run afoul of German Major Emil Haussmann, who personally directed the killing of thousands of Jews, the family was placed in squalid living conditions and given difficult work to do.
When the war was over, Emil Martel was captured and forced to do slave labor helping to rebuild war-torn Poltava. Adeline ended up in East Germany, again under Stalin’s rule. Both Emil and Adeline bravely escaped Communism and reunited. After seven years of living as refugees, they were finally able to immigrate to the United States where they were sponsored by a relative in Montana. Emil and Adeline’s belief that they would get to live free in a beautiful green valley gave them the determination to survive.
4.5-Stars. Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for my advanced reader copy. The hardcover is 458 pages. The Last Green Valley will be published on Tuesday, May 4, 2021.