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Miracle at St. Anna Hardcover – January 28, 2002

77 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

In Miracle at St. Anna, James McBride, author of the bestselling memoir The Color of Water, tells a war story that, like all great tales of conflict, connects the enormous tragedy of war with the intimate stories of individual soldiers. Miracle at St. Anna vividly follows four of the U.S. Army's 92nd Division of all-black buffalo soldiers as they become trapped between forces beyond their control and between worlds. Three of the soldiers have bolted behind enemy lines to rescue their comrade, the colossal, but simple, Private Sam Train. They find themselves stranded between worlds in a remote central Italian village, with the German Army hidden on one side and their racist and largely mismanaged American commanding officers on the other. The strange world of the village floats between myth and reality, where belief in magic coexists with the most horrific acts of war. In the melee that opens the book, the giant Sam Train suddenly comes to believe he can turn invisible, the local miser believes he is cursed with a wealth of rabbits, and each of the other soldiers also exists in a mythical world of his own. But they are all about to be shattered by the Miracle.

McBride illuminates an ironic moment in American history, a time when black soldiers fought bravely for the country whose "freedoms" included Jim Crow laws, segregation, and institutional and widespread personal racism. Miracle at St. Anna puts these intimate stories at the center of the much larger story of the struggle of people of color in this country. Each character is trapped and forced to act as nobly and as bravely as he can in the midst of forces beyond not only his control, but beyond his world. --Paul Ford

From Publishers Weekly

Following the huge critical and commercial success of his nonfiction memoir, The Color of Water, McBride offers a powerful and emotional novel of black American soldiers fighting the German army in the mountains of Italy around the village of St. Anna of Stazzema in December 1944. This is a refreshingly ambitious story of men facing the enemy in front and racial prejudice behind; it is also a carefully crafted tale of a mute Italian orphan boy who teaches the American soldiers, Italian villagers and partisans that miracles are the result of faith and trust. Toward the end of 1944, four black U.S. Army soldiers find themselves trapped behind enemy lines in the village as winter and the German army close in. Pvt. Sam Train, a huge, dim-witted, gentle soldier, cares for the traumatized orphan boy and carries a prized statue's head in a sack on his belt. Train and his three comrades are scared and uncertain what to do next, but an Italian partisan named Peppi involves the Americans in a ruthless ploy to uncover a traitor among the villagers. Someone has betrayed the villagers and local partisans to the Germans, resulting in an unspeakable reprisal. Revenge drives Peppi, but survival drives the Americans. The boy, meanwhile, knows the truth of the atrocity and the identity of the traitor, but he clings to Train for comfort and protection. Through his sharply drawn characters, McBride exposes racism, guilt, courage, revenge and forgiveness, with the soldiers confronting their own fear and rage in surprisingly personal ways at the decisive moment in their lives. Agent, Flip Brophy. Author tour. (Feb. 4)Forecast: The multi-talented McBride he is an award-winning composer as well as a writer acquits himself admirably as a fiction writer. Fans of The Color of Water and readers with wartime memories will make up a strong base audience for his first novel.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books (January 28, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573222127
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573222129
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,043,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James McBride is the author of the award-winning New York Times bestseller, The Color of Water. A former reporter for The Washington Post and People magazine, McBride holds a Masters degree in journalism from Columbia University and a B.A. from Oberlin College.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

252 of 262 people found the following review helpful By Tullio Bertini on March 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Review of Miracle at St.Anna by James McBride, Riverhead Books.
When I saw the title of the James McBride book Miracle at St.Anna I thought to myself : "could that be the same Sant'Anna di Stazzema that I described in my 1998 book Trapped in Tuscany, Liberated by the Buffalo Soldiers? " I purchased the book and discovered that it was the same Sant'Anna and that the McBride story takes place in the same area of Tuscany in which I, as a young American boy, found myself trapped for the duration of World War II.
I read the story with much interest hoping to have a better understanding of the relationship between the African-American soldiers of the 92nd Infantry division and the Italian people from Tuscany. During WWII I was located in the village of Diecimo, 10 miles from Lucca, in the Serchio River valley leading to the Garfagnana region and the towns of Barga, Sommocolonia, and Castelnuovo. Diecimo was located in the widest part of the valley, which became part of the German Gothic Line of defense. My mother, father and I arrived from Boston in Diecimo the first of August 1939 for a short vacation. My mother and father emigrated to Boston in 1920. Both were native of Diecimo and each had parents living in the village. Shortly after our arrival my father suffered a life threatening heart attack, thus we remained trapped in Italy for the duration of the war.
In mid July 1944 the German command forced the evacuation of the valley. We managed to escape, carrying what we could, and hid out in the village of Convalle, a short distance from Sant'Anna di Stazzema, until we were liberated on September 30 by the Buffalo soldiers of the 92nd Infantry Division.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Cory D. Slipman on December 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
James McBride's "Miracle at St. Anna" is a tenderly written, marvelously manufactured and historically and socially relevant story about an incredible incident is a small Tuscany village during World War 2.

The story commences with a brief description of an inexplicable present day murder committed by a Puerto Rican postal worker Hector Negron against one of his customers. We then flashback to Italy in December 1944 in the waning days of the war. A group of 4 American soldiers, members of the fabled Buffalo Soldiers of the 15,000 all black 92nd Division find themselves lost miles away from their lines in the Tuscan mountain valley village of St. Anna di Stazzema. The multilingual Negron is a member of that group including Train, a simple giant of a man, Bishop, a shifty hustler and the cerebral Lt. Stamps.

Train, confused after an aborted skirmish in which he was wounded ambled off into the village and the other men went to find him. Train discovered a dazed and confused young boy injured very badly due to a building collapse and became his guardian, believing the boy was imbued with sacred mystical powers. The men were welcomed by the local villagers who shared their meager provisions with their dark skinned saviors. Little by little we examine the characters both American and Italians through McBride's insightful prose.

The men are cut off from their command but after receiving radio contact are ordered to stay put and if possible capture a German prisoner. A group of Italian partisans known to the villagers enters the town lead by a man called Peppi and his lieutenant Rodolfo, with a German deserter.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Based on a historical incident of a massacre in a small village in Tuscany during WW2, James McBride's novel deals with the role of African-American soldiers, sometimes called the Buffalo soldiers, commanded by white southern officers. I expected this story to be about this and to also learn more about the Italian campaign. I was unprepared, however, to find myself in the middle of a tale constructed with magic realism, introducing some very memorable characters, the background for the story being just that - a background.
Because of the stupidity of their commanders, four of these soldiers find themselves far behind enemy lines. One of the men is a simple-minded giant who has rescued a small Italian boy from the rubble; one of the men is graduate of Howard University; one is a small-time preacher and outspoken hustler; and one is a Puerto Rican who can speak Italian because he has grown up in an Italian neighborhood. Eventually they find their way to a town that has known its share of sadness. Throughout the book, there are unexplained miracles, such as rabbits that mysteriously multiply under the floorboards of an elderly Italian's bedroom. And there are also some silly editorial mistakes, such as a man of 67 thinking back to his relationship with a lost love 40 years before when he was 17. It made me wonder if the author did this on purpose or whether he just couldn't do the arithmetic.
However, the strength of the story did make up for my doubts, and I was swept along with it, especially as it neared the end. Even though it's about war, there are good and bad people on all sides. And, actually, it is a German soldier who performs a vital act of heroism and compassion. A mystical quality pervades everything and the writing is strong and evocative.
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