Miracle at St. Anna

Miracle at St. Anna

by James McBride

Overview: James McBride’s powerful memoir, The Color of Water, was a groundbreaking literary phenomenon that transcended racial and religious boundaries, garnering unprecedented acclaim and topping bestseller lists for more than two years. Now McBride turns his extraordinary gift for storytelling to fiction—in a universal tale of courage and redemption inspired by a little-known historic event. In Miracle at St. Anna, toward the end of World War II, four Buffalo Soldiers from the Army’s Negro 92nd Division find themselves separated from their unit and behind enemy lines. Risking their lives for a country in which they are treated with less respect than the enemy they are fighting, they discover humanity in the small Tuscan village of St. Anna di Stazzema—in the peasants who shelter them, in the unspoken affection of an orphaned child, in a newfound faith in fellow man. And even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, they—and we—learn to see the small miracles of life

Faith Bowers (06/05/16): I really liked this older novel by James McBride, as compared to The Good Lord Bird which is about John Brown, the abolitionist and the story of Harpers Ferry. I enjoyed all the research and back stories of the mountains of Italy, the 14th century Florentine sculptures and the plight of the Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Division, the only Negro Division fighting in Italy at the end of WWII.

The comparison of the white commanders leading the black army and the white Italians who just look at the four lost soldiers without looking at race is just one of the parallels that runs through this novel. The others include the fights against the Germans as it is a white man's war and for the Italians it is their home. There are many miracles, some a little far fetched but funny and others just in the personal growth and change of the many characters when they meet up in Bornacchi, the town near the St Anna church.
Rating: ****

Elaine Marlin (05/18/16): I want to begin by saying I am a fan of stories about World War II. I have read too many stories about the people affected by the Holocaust. When I recently branched out and read The Nightingale, I discovered how it was to be French and in France during that awful period of time. This current book is about how it was in Italy during a very particular place and time period. However, most of the main characters in the book are African Americans (called Negroes at the time period). This novel was well researched by Mr.McBride (author of the glorious The Color of Water, which I read back in the late 1990's). I actually read the acknowledgments soon after beginning this wonderful story. I am glad I did: he really did his research! He also gave us, the readers, an insight about how this story came to his attention.

What I was grateful for was the point of view of this story: One of the main characters, Second Lieutenant Stamps, who was in the 92nd Division : a member of the Buffalo Soldiers (Negro) fighting during WWII; a giant man named Train, who is very simple and naive and from a very small southern town; a con artist named Bishop, and a Puerto Rican named Negron, find themselves separated from their Company because of a very specific incident. The German forces are somewhere close in the mountains. There had been a horrific massacre of Italian women, children and old people in the recent past. It was not a safe place to be! Train finds himself caring for a small, traumatized Italian boy who thinks he (Train) is a chocolate giant. They become inseparable, even though the army wants them to separate.

There is continual internal strife between the Company members, and unusual interactions between the local Italians and the four soldiers. There are miracles, there is miscommunication, there is great love, and compassion. I learned so much about the region, the attitude of many of the white superiors toward the Buffalo Soldiers in general. What I judge a book by is how it pulls me in and keeps me interested! This book did from start to finish, due to the control of the author. If you are looking for a run of the mill war story, or a romance, this is not the book. If you want a great experience, with intense personal insights, please read this book! Mr. McBride
Rating: *****

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