Rise From The Ashes: Lena’s Story:
When the world is about to shatter, the lives of so many taken and the ones responsible just beginning how can anything or anyone be saved? Terrorist attacks are not uncommon but when the Taliban take it too far and bomb the US with a chemical agent the end result is more than just catastrophic. Killing, obliterating and decimating entire populations of so many states and leaving the US in more than just disarray, those who are left are dumbfounded, confused, and afraid and some cannot go on a moment longer. But, sometimes things change and not always for the better and at other times what happens cannot be explained. The story is told by Lena, in her own voice as we enter the battlefield, endure the killings, feel the smoke in our lungs and wonder why as she and a young man named Mick do, why their senses seem to be on high alert and more acute and why their dreams predict the future. Mick, part of the US army and Lena form a solid friendship as the travel north to join a military camp housed at Lake Champlain.
The story recreates their dreams and is linked to the historical setting where the story takes place. Imagine living without power and not knowing if you will be able to get a full tank of gas. Horses and bikes will now be the way you get around, as cars and gas just might be obsolete. As Lena and Mick hope to find their way to Lake Champlain a young priest faces what no man should. Trying to lead what is left of his parish north this young priest faces many obstacles, hardships and needs to look within himself for the strength to carry on. But, first we meet his 80-year-old assistant Edith who realizes that it is time to say goodbye and refuses to head north with her friends even though they would help her every step of the way. Is it selflessness or is she just tired? The Taliban on their tail, their threats real, the drug lords and gangs running ramp it putting everyone in danger in their wake, just who will survive and who will succumb?
Just how could the Taliban succeed? Why weren’t we awake and watching? Joined by drug cartels from Latin America they seem invincible. Imagine an attack so deadly you never knew it was coming. Imagine the gravity on a population when they die from virus-laded toxic gasses. But, before things really heat up Lena and her friend Mick, a private in the army team up to find their way to Burlington. Both have been given the same acute abilities and are joined by others to lead what is left of the population. Dreams, visions that help Lena, Mick, Sue and Ed that have joined them in their journey. From the start Lean and Mick have a certain bond and realize that with their innate skills, their premonitions and their enhanced senses they just might succeed in changing things for those that are left for the better.
Added in we get to know Father Steve Polus better and realize that even though he is struggling to keep those who have entrusted them with their safety in tact, one young girl would test his strength and faith. Kim, seemed enchanted with Father Steve but when she complained about a blister on her foot, demanded that they stop walking for the day and rest, what happened next just might awaken her spirit. Leaving her alone to fend for herself she learns some hard lessons when encountering some guys on motorcycles that have other plans in mind for Kim. Self-centered, self-absorbed and really not concerned about anyone but herself she manages to find her way back to the group and hopefully will be more cooperative.
As Lena and Mick are finding their way to Burlington they stop at another town and the speech that she gives helps to motive those that have survived. Can two young teens help to create a better new world for everyone? Can they help create laws and freedoms that everyone will abide by? Ordered by the military or what is left of it to find their way to Burlington, Lena and Mick have survived many obstacles, attacks and now face a group of people in Ferrisburg who are transfixed by their manner, demeanor and impressed with their words. But, learning to trust strangers could cost lives if they are not careful. The terrorists are not that far behind them and the end result still remains to be seen. When Kim seems to have changed and the Taliban, drug warlords are just miles away, but something keeps coming back to Lena and her mind drifts to the past and her life in the present does not resemble what she views from the past. Why would she fight for the right to vote? Just who was Jolene? Who was Matt?
As they make their way further ahead they encounter more bodies finally arrive at Lake Champlain. The author describes their surroundings, where they wind up and the fact that finding hay and grain for the horses was necessary but safety had to be paramount.
So, why did the Taliban invade? Why did they bomb America and Europe? How would the new world and the people surviving create peace? Where would the drug lords strike next? Why did the Latin American drug cartels team up with a terrorist group? As you hear Lena tell the story these questions are left unanswered for right now.
Friendships, loyalties and trust tested and with the help of Doug, Sue, Ed, Major Morna and hope just might help them survive. But, what about Father Steve and his flock when they encounter some serious storms? Will they decide to stay put for the winter or will they move on? An ending that will make you wonder what is next for these new settlers and where their lives will wind up?
Lena is a strong character and I can see where she will play an important part in the lives of these people and helping them to create a better world if her past does not become her present and she sticks close to Mick and remembers who she really is.
There are many interesting lessons that Young Adults can learn from reading this book: survival skills, cooperation, sharing, helping, forgiveness, teamwork, understanding, tolerance and trust. Author Laura Franklin leave many questions as I said unanswered but this is Lena’s story and there are more to follow.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
This book gets four and half stars