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The stricken U-505 is captured by American forces. Today, the Uboat is on permanent display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
What Kind of Book Is His Life Abiding?
It is a young adult paranormal mystery, appropriate for ages 11 and up or grade level 6 and up.
What parts of His Life Abiding are based on real events?
The so-called "Battle of the Atlantic" was a real-life and bloody conflict, especially during the early years of World War II. From 1939 to 1945, German U-boats harrassed both merchant and military ships, sinking thousands of vessels and taking tens of thousands of lives This conflict is portrayed in the opening scene of His Life Abiding where Ehren Tschantz's supply submarine (called a Milch Cow) comes under attack by U.S. warplanes and is ultimately destroyed.
The subsequent "flashback" areas of the book, such as those depicting Ehren Tschantz's internment at Fort Meade, Maryland, are also based on actual places and events, though all are fictionalized for this story.
I had a familial connection to Werner Dreschler's case through my father, as one of his childhood friends was a military police officer at the POW camp where Dreschler was murdered in March 1944. In fact, my dad's friend had the gruesome task of retrieving Dreschler's mangled body the morning after he was killed. He and I spoke at length about the incident in the mid-1990s, and I could still hear the anger in his voice over what had happened to Dreschler. Although other Germans would've certainly considered Dreschler a traitor, to many American soldiers like my dad's friend, he was someone who was taking a huge risk to help defeat Adolf Hitler. My conversation with him is probably where the idea for His Life Abiding began.
The photo to the right is a US Navy image of Dreschler's boat, U-118, under attack by American aircraft. You will notice the boat is trailing oil on the water's surface. Many of the U-118's crew were killed. Dreschler was fortunate to survive, only to meet an equally horrible a fate later in a POW camp.
The Atlantic seaboard is covered with lighthouses, most dating back to an age long before modern navigational technology made them obsolete. I've always been fascinated by these structures, finding them both beautiful and a little creepy. I thought a lighthouse-turned-private-residence would be a great place for young people to have an adventure. Plus, I liked how it worked symbolically – especially for the character of Tyler – as a mysterious place with a long history but still isolated from everything around it. Ironically, Karen's lighthouse is based on the Point Fermin Lighthouse in San Pedro, California (shown left), so not anywhere near the book's New England setting.