NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “A powerfully imagined novel . . . [a] profoundly moving book that engages the heights and depths of human experience.”—Los Angeles Times
It is September 8, 1943, and fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum and her father are among the thousands of Jewish refugees scrambling over the Alps toward Italy, where they hope to find safety now that the Italians have broken from Germany and made a separate peace with the Allies. The Blums will soon discover that Italy is anything but peaceful, as it quickly becomes an open battleground for the Nazis, the Allies, Resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italian civilians trying to survive.
Tracing the lives of a handful of fascinating characters—a charismatic Italian Resistance leader, a priest, an Italian rabbi’s family, a disillusioned German doctor—Mary Doria Russell tells the little-known story of the vast underground effort by Italian citizens who saved the lives of 43,000 Jews during the final phase of World War II. A Thread of Grace puts a human face on history.
Praise for A Thread of Grace
“An addictive page-turner . . . [Mary Doria] Russell has an astonishing story to tell—full of action, paced like a rapid-fire thriller, in tense, vivid scenes that move with cinematic verve.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Hauntingly beautiful, utterly unforgettable.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Rich . . . Based on the heroism of ordinary people, [A Thread of Grace] packs an emotional punch.”—People
“[A] deeply felt and compellingly written book . . . The progress of each character’s life is marked or measured by acts of grace. . . . Russell is a smart, passionate and imaginative writer.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“A feat of storytelling . . . an important book [that] needs to be widely read.”—Portland Oregonian
“Mary Doria Russell’s fans (and aren’t we all?) will rejoice to see her new novel on the shelves. A Thread of Grace is as ambitious, beautiful, tense, and transforming as any of us could have hoped.”—Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club
“A story of love and war, A Thread of Grace speaks to the resilience and beauty of the human spirit in the midst of unimaginable horror. It is, unquestionably, a literary triumph.”—David Morrell, author of The Brotherhood of the Rose and First Blood
Busy, noisy and heartfelt, this sprawling novel by Russell a striking departure from her previous two acclaimed SF thrillers, The Sparrow and Children of God chronicles the Italian resistance to the Germans during the last two years of WWII. Three cultures mingle uneasily in Porto Sant'Andrea on the Ligurian coast of northwest Italy the Italian Jews of the village, headed by the chief rabbi Iacopo Soncini; the Italian Catholics, like Sant'Andrea's priest Don Osvaldo Tomitz, who befriend and shelter the Jews; and the occupying Germans invited by Mussolini's crumbling regime. In the last camp is the drunken, tubercular Nazi deserter, Doktor Schramm, a broken man who confesses to Don Osvaldo that while working in state hospitals and Auschwitz, he was responsible for murdering 91,867 people. Meanwhile, Jewish refugees in southern France, including Albert Blum and his teenage daughter, Claudette, are fleeing across the Alps to Italy, hoping to find sanctuary there. Russell pursues numerous narrative threads, including the Blums' perilous flight over the mountains; Italian Jew Renzo Leoni's personal coming to terms with his participation in the Dolo hospital bombing during the Abyssinian campaign in 1935; the dangerous frenzy of the Italian partisans; and the bloody-mindedness of German officers resolved to carry out Hitler's murderous racial policy despite mounting evidence of its futility. The action moves swiftly, with impressive authority, jostling dialogue, vibrant personalities and meticulous, unexpected historical detail. The intensity and intimacy of Russell's storytelling, her sharp character writing and fierce sense of humor bring fresh immediacy to this riveting WWII saga.