Second Look: THE SECRET OF LAUREL OAKS by Lois Ruby


The Secret of Laurel Oaks
Author: Lois Ruby
Age: Juvenile, 10+
Genre: Ghost Story, Historical

What It’s About
Lila and her family travel to Louisiana for her mother to present at a conference.  Lila picks their place to stay – the Laurel Oaks plantation, which is reportedly haunted.  The lady of the house and her two daughters were murdered in the late 1700s.

The story revolves around Lila and her brother Gabe, but also told in alternating chapters by Daphne, a former slave at the plantation (and now a ghost).  Lila is open to the ghost world, but she doesn’t realize that.  So, Daphne visits her, prompting her to “find the babies in the wall.”  It is up to Lila and Gabe, a total nonbeliever through most of the book, to find these “babies.”  However, it’s not as simple as that.  There’s another spirit – Eulie – who’s not-so-nice.  She tries to keep Lila and Gabe from finding out the truth about the murder that was committed almost 200 years before.

Daphne’s story tells the reader about what it was like being a slave on the plantation and what happened that night of the murder.  While some of her story is told in the present, most of it is told in the past, letting the reader have insight into what it was like in the world at that time.

I wanted to do a ghost story for the October book group, and I’m so glad I read this.  It’s not only a genuine ghost story, but it’s also great for younger readers.  While there are parts that are a little unnerving, it’s not that scary (like Stephen King).

The history of slavery, through Daphne’s story, is a really great addition.  While I aged this for younger readers, Daphne’s pretty honest about what happened to her at the planation.  Ruby really doesn’t sugar coat things for the reader, but she’s not too graphic about it, either.

In all, I really enjoyed the story.  It added the perfect blend of history, present, and ghost hunting.  The young protagonists were well written, too.  Lila doesn’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but she is more open to it than Gabe.  It was a nice contradiction to have one who was so against it because it was realistic.

A definite recommendation to someone who likes history and ghost stories!

Book Group
After the Last Page book group will be doing this as our “Halloween” book in late October.

Rating… 8/10 stars.


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