Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Having conquered nonfiction with The Color of Water, which dwelled on the New York Times best sellers list for two years, journalist McBride takes a chance at fiction. He roots his novel in actual events, relating an encounter between the 92nd Division's Buffalo Soldiers and a little boy from a Tuscan village where a terrible massacre has occurred. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
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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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The miracles of survival, of love born in extremity, and of inexplicable "luck" are the subjects of this first novel by the author of the best-selling memoir The Color of Water. During World War II, in the Serchio valley deep in the Italian Alps, a small African American division of the U.S. army struggles to obey the orders of unseen white men in a war that is for them illogical and rife with cruelty. Sam Train, the perfect soldier (he's big, he's kind, he can shoot a gun, he follows orders, and he's dumb), finds himself behind enemy lines in the company of a wounded child a rescuer in need of rescuing. His comrades, when they arrive, unwittingly unmask a traitor among the Italian rebel forces, whose actions explain the riddle of a massacre and the village siege. Similar to Louis de Bernires's Corelli's Mandolin (LJ 7/94) in its treatment of Italian wartime village life and the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity, this story is true to the stark realities of racial politics yet has an eye to justice and hope. Highly recommended for all public libraries and for book discussion groups. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/01.] Jennifer Baker, Seattle P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

McBride, the author of the best-selling memoir The Color of Water (1996), turns his hand to fiction in this stirring tribute to the human soul. Sent to Italy to fight under unbelievably harsh and unfamiliar conditions, the members of the Ninety-second all-black, segregated Buffalo Division distinguished themselves both on and off the battlefield during World War II. Cut off from their unit during a botched advance, four GIs become the improbable guardians of a traumatized Italian boy who has lost the power of speech and the ability to remember his past. Refusing to abandon the child, Sam Train, an illiterate giant of a man, insists on carrying the boy to safety. In a remote mountain town, the Americans learn from a handful of suspicious villagers, a rag-tag band of Italian partisans, and a remorseful German soldier that the boy was the only survivor of a brutal massacre. Although McBride touches on issues of race, atrocity, and evil, these diverse characters are able to transcend such human failings through love and faith. --Margaret Flanagan