Friday, February 5, 2016
A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
The last 100 pages, although brutal in their depiction of the end of the war, were completely compelling and I have been reading a lot over the last two days to get to the end, but I'm getting ahead of myself...
This isn't the story of one person in particular, but many people living in Italy in the early to mid-1940's. It is mainly the story of Jewish Italians (and also some others from nearby countries who had fled to Italy) trying to survive the German attacks of WWII and the Catholic Italians trying to keep them safe. Because there are many characters and interweaving storylines it can be hard to keep everyone straight. Especially when characters are changing their names to protect themselves! I really appreciated the character list included in the beginning of the book to help keep everyone straight. If you choose to read this book, I would recommend a print edition rather than an electronic one, so you can easily refer back to this list and some maps printed in the front of the book.
It is a story of faith, hope, perseverance in the worst possible circumstances, family, and bravery of many different kinds. Characters will grow and stretch themselves in ways that didn't seem possible at the beginning of the book. People who would likely have never had anything to do with each in peace time will risk their lives to save each other. It's really unlike anything else I've ever read and an incredibly powerful portrayal of the final days of the war.
When I had the privilege of visiting a Canadian War Cemetary in Holland one thing that struck me was the number of soldiers who died in the final days of the war, or even after the war was over. After reading this book, I have a better understanding of some of those final battles and the desperation that led to many of those deaths, and the deaths of many civilians as well.
It's been a while since I cried while reading a book, but the last few chapters brought me to tears a few times (a scene of Last Rites being given in a torture chamber wiped me out). Some shocking things happen and are written in a way that completely caught me off guard. The ending of one chapter even made me think of the ending of The Sopranos. Very powerful, captivating writing that told the story beautifully.
I rated this book a 5 on Goodreads. I rarely do that. I would like to read it again one day to get a better understanding of many of the little storylines. But not for a while. I feel like this book will haunt me for a long time. I'm glad our next selection is much lighter. My brain needs a bit of a break!