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.
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