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Miracle at St. Anna

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for The Miracle at St. Anna:

“McBride creates an intricate mosaic of narratives that ultimately becomes about betrayal and the complex moral landscape of war.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Full of miracles of friendship, of salvation and survival.” —Los Angeles Times

“Searingly, soaringly beautiful…The book’s central theme, its essence, is a celebration of the human capacity for love.” —The Baltimore Sun

“A haunting meditation on faith that is also a crack military thriller.” —Entertainment Weekly

“An outstanding novel about World War II inspired by the famous Buffalo Soldiers…so descriptive that I feel as though I’m an eyewitness to everything that happens emotionally on the frontline.” —The Dallas Morning News

“A miracle in its own right…McBride’s prose is stunning. His ability to bring to life an actual historical event (the massacre at St. Anna and the famed Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Division) is a gift.” —Rocky Mountain News

“Sweetly compelling… McBride combines elements of history, mythology and magical realism to make this a story about the little things like life and forgiveness and shared experience.” —Atlanta Journal Constitution

“Riveting.” —Newsday

Amazon.com 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

–This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

From AudioFile

Following his hugely successful memoir, THE COLOR OF WATER, McBride has written a novel about black Americans fighting in Italy in 1944. The main character, who thinks he’s invisible and carries a magic statue, meets a traumatized Italian boy who is mute and who has an imaginary friend. The production requires a reader like Ted Daniel, who is capable of American black English, which he does to perfection. Daniel speaks slowly, with exaggerated expression and emphasis, as if reading to young children, except for some words that are not for kids. Indeed, the author’s struggle to achieve poetic imagery with an adolescent vocabulary makes the plot of this novel seem secondary. J.A.H. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine– Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine –This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved –This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

From Library Journal

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.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
–This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

About the Author

James McBride is an award-winning writer and musician. His memoir and tribute to his mother, The Color of Water, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than two years, was published worldwide and won the prestigious Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. As a composer McBride has written songs for Anita Baker, Grover Washington Jr., and Gary Burton; he received the American Music Theater Festival’s Stephen Sondheim Award for his jazz/pop musical Bobos. He lives in Pennsylvania.

–This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Prologue All the guy wanted was a twenty-cent stamp. That’s all he wanted, but when he slid his dollar bill across the post office counter at 34th Street in Manhattan, the diamond in the gold ring on his finger was so huge that postal clerk Hector Negron wanted to see whom the finger was connected to. Hector normally never looked at the faces of customers. In thirty years of working behind the window at the post office, he could think of maybe three customers whose faces he could actually remember, and two of them were relatives. One was his sister, whom he hadn’t talked to in fourteen years. The other was his cousin from San Juan, who had been his first-grade teacher. Besides those two, the rest didn’t count. They melded into the millions of New York schmucks who staggered to his window with a smile, hoping he would smile back, which he never did. People did not interest him anymore. He had lost his interest in them long ago, even before his wife died. But Hector loved rocks, especially the valuable ones. He’d played the numbers every single day for the past thirty years, and he often fantasized about the kind of diamonds he would buy if he won. So when the man slid his dollar bill across the counter and asked for a stamp, Hector saw the huge rock on his finger and looked up, and when he did, his heart began to pound and he felt faint; he remembered the naked terror of the dark black mountain towns of Tuscany, the old walls, the pitch-black streets as tiny as alleyways, the staircases that appeared out of nowhere, the freezing rainy nights when every stirring leaf sounded like a bomb dropping and the hooting of an owl made him piss in his pants. He saw beyond the man’s face but he saw the man’s face, too. It was a face he would never forget.

Hector always carried a pistol to work, and the next day, when the newspapers ran the story of how Hector pulled the pistol out of his front pocket and blew the man’s face off, they talked about how Hector always carried a gun to work because he lived in Harlem and Harlem was dangerous. Hector was old. He lived alone. He’d been robbed before. He was afraid. The New York Times and the Post carried the requisite interviews of fellow postal employees gathered around a taped-up doorway saying he’d seemed about to snap and that he was ready for retirement and how they couldn’t understand it all, but only one person, a rookie reporter from the Daily News named Tim Boyle, wrote anything about the statue head. It was Boyle’s first day on the job, and he got lost going to the post office, and by the time he got there, the other reporters had left and all of Hector’s co-workers had gone. Boyle panicked, thinking he was going to get fired-which if you’re a reporter for the Daily News and you can’t find the main post office in midtown Manhattan is about right-so he talked the cops into letting him ride with them up to Hector’s ramshackle apartment on 145th Street. They went through Hector’s things and found the head of a statue, which looked expensive. Boyle rode with the cops to Forensics, who checked it out and found nothing. But one of the cop’s wives was an art lover, and the cop said this thing don’t look normal, so they took it to the Museum of Natural History, who sent them to the Museum of Modern Art, who sent for a man out of NYU’s art department, who came over and said, Shit, this is the missing head of the Primavera from the Santa Trinita.

The cops laughed and said Is that the Nina, the Pinta, or the Santa Maria?

The guy said, Hell no. It’s a bridge in Florence.

And that’s how Tim Boyle saved his job and Hector Negron made the front page of the International Herald Tribune, which on that December morning in 1983 was tossed from a tenth-story window of the Aldo Manuzio office building in Rome by a tired janitor named Franco Curzi who wanted to get home early because it was almost Christmas. It floated down and pirouetted in the air a few times and finally landed on a table at the sidewalk cafe below, as if God had placed it there, which He, in fact, had.

A tall, well-dressed Italian man with a well-trimmed beard was sitting at a table having his morning coffee when the paper landed on the table next to his. He noticed the headline and grabbed the paper.

He read holding the coffee cup in his hand, and when he was done, he dropped the coffee cup and stood so abruptly his chair skidded out behind him and the table slid forward three feet. He turned and began to walk, then trot, then run down the street. Passersby on the sidewalk gawked as the tall man in the Caraceni suit and Bruno Magli shoes tore past them at full tilt, his jacket flying behind him, his arms pumping, running down the crowded tiny streets as fast as he could go, as if by running he could leave it all behind, which was of course impossible.

Invisible

On December 12, 1944, Sam Train became invisible for the first time. He remembered it exactly.

He was standing on the bank of the Cinquale Canal, just north of Forte dei Marmi, in Italy. It was dawn. The order was to go. One hundred and twenty black soldiers from the Ninety-second Division bunched behind five tanks and watched them roll toward the water, then clumsily waded in behind them, rifles held high. On the other side, just beyond the river plains and mostly hidden in the heavy mountain forest of the Apuane Alps, five companies of Field-Marshal Albert Kesselring’s 148th Brigade Division, seasoned, hardened German troops, watched and waited. They sat silently. Hardened, seasoned, exhausted, they sat burrowed into the sides of the heavily wooded mountain, peering into their scopes, watching every move. They’d been there on the Gothic line six months, a thick line of defense that stretched across the Italian peninsula, from La Spezia all the way to the Adriatic Sea, planting mines, building concrete bunkers, laying booby traps and tripwires. Exhausted, starving, knowing the war was lost, most wanted to run but could not. There were reports that many were found dead, chained to their machine guns. The orders were straight from the Fuhrer himself. Any man who deserted, any man who gave an inch would be shot without ceremony or trial. Their orders were to stand firm. There was no backing away.

Train watched as the first of the tanks hit a mine on the other side of the beach and the Germans opened up with everything-mortars, .88’s, and machine -gun fire. He heard a frightened voice behind him screaming, “Kill me now! Kill me now!” and he wondered who it was. The smell of cordite and gunpowder drifted into his lungs. He felt his heart seize and stop. Then he heard someone yell, “Go, soldier!” and felt a shove, and he ran, splashing, to his own death.

He had no choice. He didn’t want to run. He didn’t trust his commander. The man was from the South. Train had never seen him before that morning. He was a replacement for the old captain, who’d transferred out two days before-whose name Train couldn’t remember either. The men were strangers to him, but they were white, so they had to be right, or maybe not, but Train was from North Carolina and he didn’t know how to stand up to white people like the coloreds from the North did. Train didn’t trust them. They brought trouble with their high falutin’ ways and long words and college degrees, always making the captain-what was his name? -mad. He remembered the first colored soldier he’d ever seen, back home in Highpoint, North Carolina, just before he was drafted. It was his first-ever bus ride in the city, and the man had spoiled it. The soldier got on the bus wearing a crisp army uniform with lieutenant’s bars and a shoulder patch with a black buffalo on it. He took a seat down front. The bus driver said, “Move to the back, boy.” The Negro opened his mouth, outraged, and said, “Fuck you.” The driver slammed on the brakes and got up. Before the Yankee could move, there was a chorus of hissing and cursing from the rear of the bus. It was the other blacks next to Train. “Cut it out,” one hissed. “You makin it bad for the rest of us.” “Whyn’t you go home, you mooley bastard,” shouted another. Train, stunned, tried to look away, the slight bit of shame that washed over him replaced by relief as the Yankee soldier glared at the blacks next to him, flung open the rear door of the bus, and stomped out, huffing and muttering at them in furious disgust. The bus roared away, blowing black diesel fumes in his face.

And now Train was following one of those light-skinned, know-it-all Northern Negroes into the drink, a lieutenant from Harlem named Huggs. He called himself “A Howard University guy, ASTP,” which Train guessed had something to do with reading but wasn’t sure since he couldn’t read himself. It was something he had a mind to learn one day because he would like to read the Bible and know his verses better. He even tried to think about his Bible verses as he drove his legs into the water and the din around him grew louder, but he couldn’t remember a single verse so he began singing “Nearer My God to Thee,” and as he sang the metal shrapnel and bullets began to ping off the tanks around him and he could hear their treads snapping as they hit mines that blew up. He waded slowly up to his hips in the clear canal and suddenly felt quiet and peaceful, and then –just like that — he was invisible. He could see better, hear better, smell better. Everything in the world became clear, every truth clairvoyant, every lie a blasphemy, all of nature became alive to him. At 6’6″, two hundred seventy-five pounds, all muscle, with a soft-spoken charm, tender brown eyes, and deep chocolate skin that covered an innocent round face, Sam Train was everything the army wanted in a Negro. He was big. He was kind. He followed orders. He could shoot a rifle. And most of all, he was dumb. The other men laughed at him and called him “sniper bait” and “Diesel” because of his size. They placed bets on whether he could pull a two-ton truck or not, but he never minded them, only smiled. He knew he wasn’t smart. He had prayed to become smart, and suddenly here he was: smart, and</…

–This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

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.

–This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Additional information

ASIN

B001FA0MG6

Publisher

Riverhead Books; Reprint edition September 2 2008

Publication date

September 2 2008

Language

English

File size

3748 KB

Text-to-Speech

Enabled

Screen Reader

Supported

Enhanced typesetting

Enabled

X-Ray

Not Enabled

Word Wise

Enabled

Print length

292 pages

Lending

Not Enabled

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