Miracle at St. Anna (Movie Tie-in)

Miracle at St. Anna (Movie Tie-in)

by James McBride

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

Look out for McBride's new book, Five-Carat Soul

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Lord Bird, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction, and Kill 'Em and Leave, a James Brown biography.

James McBride’s powerful memoir, The Color of Water, was a groundbreaking literary phenomenon that transcended racial and religious boundaries, garnering unprecedented acclaim and topping bestseller lists for more than two years. Now McBride turns his extraordinary gift for storytelling to fiction—in a universal tale of courage and redemption inspired by a little-known historic event. In Miracle at St. Anna, toward the end of World War II, four Buffalo Soldiers from the Army’s Negro 92nd Division find themselves separated from their unit and behind enemy lines. Risking their lives for a country in which they are treated with less respect than the enemy they are fighting, they discover humanity in the small Tuscan village of St. Anna di Stazzema—in the peasants who shelter them, in the unspoken affection of an orphaned child, in a newfound faith in fellow man. And even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, they—and we—learn to see the small miracles of life.

This acclaimed novel is now a major motion picture directed by Spike Lee.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594483608
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/02/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,194,739
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

James McBride is an accomplished musician and author of the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, the #1 bestselling American classic The Color of Water, and the bestsellers Song Yet Sung and Miracle at St. Anna, which was turned into a film by Spike Lee. McBride is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.

Hometown:

Bucks County, Pennsylvania

Date of Birth:

1957

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Education:

Oberlin Conservatory of Music; M.A., Columbia University School of Journalism

Read an Excerpt


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'sface 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 invisible. Two for one.

He stopped completely still in the water as the sounds of death and machine-gun fire seemed to die all around him, as if someone had turned down the volume and replaced it with the peaceful crowing of a rooster that he could hear all by itself as if it were singing solo. Standing in the water as men rushed past him, falling, screaming, weeping, he gazed upward at the mountain before him and marveled at the lovely olive trees that lay in the groves above the German batteries, which he could see as clear as day. He saw the bobbing green of the Germans' helmets as they raced from one smoking artillery cannon to another. The helmets blended perfectly with the shorn leaves and rocks and ridges of the mountains behind them. He marveled at the sun peeking over the ridge as if for the first time. Everything seemed perfect. When Train saw the smarty-dog Huggs from New York spin back toward him with his face shot off, then flop into the water like a rag doll, he felt no fear. He was happy, because he was invisible. Nothing could touch him. Nothing could happen to him. He decided it had to be the statue head.

He'd found it in Florence the first day he'd arrived, next to a river where the Germans had destroyed a bridge. Everybody in the army wanted souvenirs, but for some reason nobody was interested in it. There must have been four companies that marched past that marble head, but no one grabbed it, maybe because of the weight. But Sam Train had carried a forty-six-pound radio in training camp for six months and that had never bothered him. He picked it up because he wanted it as a gift for his grandmother. He kept it in a net bag laced to his hip, and before the day was over three guys had offered him ten dollars for it. "Naw," he said, "I'm keeping it." That night he changed his mind and decided to test the market. He wanted to see if the Italians would buy it because he'd heard they would pay twenty dollars for a carton of cigarettes. Before digging his foxhole outside Florence, he walked into town to look for an Italian, but he couldn't find a soul. The streets were empty, barren, save for an occasional rat that leaped out of the wreckage and quickly disappeared into the rubble again. Finally, Train found an old woman wandering down a deserted street. She was the first Italian he had ever met. She was ragged and filthy, with her head wrapped in a scarf and her feet swathed in rubber inner tubes worn like sandals, even though it was winter. He held the statue head out as he approached. He offered it to her for fifty dollars. She smiled a toothless grin and said, "Me half-American, too." Train didn't understand. He dropped the offer to twenty-five. She turned around and staggered away as if drunk. He stood, blinking in misunderstanding. Halfway up the block she straddled the curb, spread her legs, held her dress out, squatted, and pissed, steam coming from the piss as it hit the ground. He was glad he didn't sell it to her. It would have been a waste.

He was thinking about the woman squatting over the curb, pissing, as the murky parts of Huggs's face floated past him in the water. Then he heard a soft plop and felt a sucking inside his chest and a pain in his head. Suddenly, he no longer felt peaceful. He could feel his invisibility slipping off like a cloak, so he ran like hell, past two burning tanks, past a bobbing arm connected to a bobbing body, straight across to the other side of the canal, where a group of soldiers cowered behind a rock in a grove of trees, a man named Bishop among them.

He flopped on the canal bank and heard Bishop say, "Oh shit. You been hit in the head."

Train wiped the moisture from his face, glanced at it, realized it was blood, and lay on his back and died. He felt his spirit leave his body. It was as if his spirit had drained out of the bottom of his shoes and floated away. He was truly invisible now.

"Thank you, Lord," Train said. "I'm prepared for Thee." He waited to feel the sweet nothingness of death. He opened his mouth to taste the sweet smell of heaven and felt instead stinking, hot chicken breath blowing down into his lungs. It tasted like dog shit and hog maws mixed together. He opened his eyes and saw the big, black, shiny, eel-like face of Bishop's stuck to his - Bishop stuck to his mouth. He sat up straight.

"Goddamn, you crazy?" Suddenly, the booms and din around Train seemed to screech to an unbelievable roaring pitch. He heard moans and screams of death. He heard fire crackling as nearby tree limbs and branches snapped under the thunderous slams of .88 shells that whirred past, blowing branches and bark down on them like rainwater. It was as if some giant, inhuman beast had broken loose and was out to destroy the world. He looked across the canal and saw the unit retreating, the dozens of bodies in the canal, a white captain waving them back in, and then his view was blocked by Bishop's huge, black, shiny face and several glistening gold teeth, which adorned the front of Bishop's mouth like a radiator grill. Bishop grabbed him by the lapel and roared at him over the din, "You owe me fourteen-hundred dollars!"

It was true. He did owe Bishop fourteen-hundred dollars from poker and craps, but that was before today. Before he'd learned to become invisible.

Just as suddenly, it got quiet. The screaming meanies quit, the German machine guns quit, the American ack-ack guns quit, and the only sound Train could make out was the crackling of a burning tank in the canal just short of shore and the soft murmuring of someone who was obviously burning to death inside it. He suddenly remembered where he was and what had happened to him.

"Wasn't I hit?" he asked Bishop.

Bishop was a minister from Kansas City. They called him Walking Thunder. He was a short, trim man with smooth skin that covered a handsomely sharp, coal-black face, with dimples and devilish laughing eyes that seemed to wink all the time. His uniform always appeared starched and neat, even in battle. His voice was like silk, his hands slender and delicate, as if they had never held dirt, and his gold-toothed smile was like reason itself. He had a church of two-hundred parishioners back home who sent him care packages every week, full of chicken and cookies, which he used to barter at poker. Train had heard him preach once at training camp and it was like watching a steam pump sucking coal on a hot July day. He could make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up on end.

"You was hit and you was dead and I brung you back," said Bishop. "Don't nobody know about it but me, and that's fine. But you owes me some money, and until you pays it, you ain't goin nowhere."

"You puttin a mojo on me?"

"I ain't doing no mojo. I wants my money. Now you go git that white boy out that haystack over there yonder. He's yours to deal with. I sure ain't goin."

"What white boy?"

"That one." Bishop pointed to a stone barn about two hundred yards off and fled, splashing back across the canal as the bombs and artillery splashed around him and didn't touch him.

Train turned on his side and watched as a haystack the size of a small bush crept along the barn wall, then stopped. Underneath it were two tiny feet clad in wooden shoes.

-- from Miracle at St. Anna by James McBride, Copyright © February 2002, Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. Used by permission.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher


“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

“McBride is adept at describing the wartime state of mind: land and people lying ravaged in the wake of a wild brutality…The author is also skilled at capturing those almost epiphanic moments that seem to happen so often during wars, when ships pass briefly in the night. At these moments, his narrative, which is based on a true story, plunges straight to the heart.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“McBride makes an impressive foray into fiction with a multi-shaded WWII tale…a haunting meditation on faith that is also a crack military thriller...strikingly cinematic…with nods to Ralph Ellison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, McBride creates a mesmerizing concoction…a miracle in itself.”—Entertainment Weekly

“James McBride…brings formidable storytelling skills and lyrical imagination to his novel…[He] deftly broadens the landscape of his drama by entering the minds of a range of supporting characters: Italian freedom fighters, white army officers, starving villagers, a clairvoyant, and even a 16th-century sculptor.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“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 work provides us with a lesson not only about history but also about humanity and heroism.”—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…McBride is able to make it work, with the understanding that true miracles happen within ourselves.”—Denver Rocky Mountain News

“McBride’s descriptions of the almost unavoidable, myth-infested Apuan Alps—terrain as beautiful as it is unbearable—are seething poetry. His reconstruction of history—from Florentine politics and tribalism to marble quarrying and sculpture—are masterful. McBride’s empathy for his fellow human is as affecting as the poetry of his prose. He makes his reader...feel the pain, terror, anguish, self-doubt of his characters. The book’s central theme, its essence, is a celebration of the human capacity for love. Even in the course of virtually unbearable warfare and deprivation...people are able to touch each other, to care. That, McBride insists, is the enduring, immortal miracle of the human race for all its imperfections.”—The Baltimore Sun

“Great-hearted, hopeful, and deeply imaginative.”—Elle

“McBride has taken a bold leap into fiction. [He] goes deep into each character and takes you with him. His rich description of the landscape...transports you into this world. It’s a great piece of storytelling. I cried. I laughed. I hated finishing this book.”—Albuquerque Tribune

“McBride has the enviable capacity to enlarge and complicate his readers’ understanding of what it means to be human. McBride, who delivered a beautifully nuanced portrait of racial relations in his memoir, The Color of Water, brings the same humanity and understanding to his exploration of the complicated relationships between black soldiers and their white commanders in this novel.”—BookPage

“A sweetly compelling novel. 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

Miracle at St. Anna powerfully examines the horrors of history and finds an unexpected wealth of goodness and compassion in the human soul.”—Newark Star-Ledger

“The miracles of survival, of love born in extremity, and of inexplicable ‘luck’ are the subjects of this first novel. [Miracle at St. Anna] is true to the stark realities of racial politics yet has an eye to justice and hope.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“Riveting.”—Newsday

“Roars ahead kicking and screaming to the finish, lightening-lit with rage and tenderness.”—The San Francisco Chronicle

“A powerful and emotional novel of black American soldiers fighting the German army in the mountains of Italy. This is a refreshingly ambitious story of men facing the enemy in front and racial prejudice behind…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.”—Publishers Weekly

“A tale of hardship and horror as well as nobility and—yes—miracles, during the Italian campaign in World War II.”—Philadelphia Daily News

“World War II provides a dazzling backdrop for James McBride’s first novel.”—Savoy

“A brutal and moving first novel…McBride’s heart is on his sleeve, but these days it looks just right.”—Kirkus Reviews

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
With his bestselling memoir The Color of Water, James McBride created a fascinating story of growing up in the projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn and a vivid portrait of his indomitable mother. Now, in his first novel, he broadens his scope from personal history to the larger history of WWII and the little known role that black soldiers played in it.

The story begins in 1983 with the abrupt and unexplained shooting by Hector Negron, a New York City postal employee, of a man who wanted only to purchase a stamp. Why Hector has killed this man and how he came to possess the head of the statue of the Primavera, which had adorned the Santa Trinita bridge in Florence since the sixteenth century, is the mystery that Miracle at St. Anna sets out, in a most circuitous fashion, to solve.

Stepping back forty years, the novel plunges us into the world of the all-Negro 92nd Division, into the fierce fighting of WWII in the mountains of Italy, and into the hearts and minds of four unforgettable soldiers. It is a war in which the unquestioned racial attitudes of 1940s America take on life-and-death consequences on the battlefield, as white commanders willfully jeopardize their black troops. It is, as private Bishop says, "a white man's war.... Niggers ain't got nothing to do with it." But when Sam Train, an illiterate giant of a soldier from North Carolina, saves a white Italian boy from the invading Germans, a journey begins that will take Sam, Bishop, Hector Negron, and Lieutenant Stamps far from their Division commanders to the remote mountain village of St. Anna di Stazzema. Here they will encounter the village witch, a beautiful young woman, partisan fighters led by the legendary "Black Butterfly," and an Italian family that treats them with an equality they have never before experienced. More importantly, it is here, in the aftermath of a brutal Nazi massacre, that they will witness miracles and make the powerful discovery that "everybody got something to do with everything."

With a view of the war that is both panoramic in its sweep and deeply personal in its exploration of the human spirit, Miracle at St. Anna brings to life a largely overlooked historical moment and extends the reach of James McBride's considerable storytelling powers.

 


ABOUT JAMES MCBRIDE

James McBride is an award-winning writer and musician. He has been a staff writer for The Washington Post, People magazine, and The Boston Globe. His memoir, The Color of Water, spent more than two years on The New York Times bestseller list, was published worldwide, and received the prestigious Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. As a composer, McBride has won the American Music Theater Festival's Stephen Sondheim Award for his jazz/pop musical Bobos, and has composed songs for Anita Baker, Grover Washington, Jr., and Gary Burton. A jazz saxophonist, he has performed with Rachelle Farrell and with the legendary jazz performer Little Jimmy Scott. McBride lives in Pennsylvania.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • Why do you think McBride chose to frame his WWII story with the post office episode that takes place in 1983? How does this narrative frame clarify or comment on the picture of the war it contains?
     
  • What knowledge of the African American experience in WWII did you bring to Miracle at St. Anna? How did reading the novel deepen your understanding of this aspect of the war?
     
  • In a fiery argument with Stamps, Bishop says, "So now the great white father sends you out here to shoot Germans so he can hang you back home for looking at his woman wrong.... The Negro don't have doodleysquat to do with this...this devilment, this war-to-free-the-world shit" [p. 147-9]. In what ways does the war reveal the racism and hypocrisy entrenched in American society? How are the black soldiers treated by their white commanders? How are they treated by the Italians? Is Bishop's cynicism justified?
     
  • Why does Train become so attached to the young Italian boy he rescues? What does the boy offer him that he's never had before? What does Train learn from him? Is the boy, as Train claims, "an angel"?
     
  • The novel is titled Miracle at St. Anna but several miracles occur in the book. Which of these is the miracle referred to in the title? What effects do these events have on those who experience them? Do you think McBride wants us to read them as divine manifestations of God's power or simply as remarkable occurrences?
     
  • Why does Rudolfo betray the Italian partisan hero Peppi, the "Black Butterfly"? What are the consequences of that betrayal? How is Rudolfo's treachery revealed?
     
  • Why does McBride tell the history of the statue's head that Train carries with him throughout the war? What does this history add to the story? Is it possible to read the entire novel as a complex elaboration of that statue's journey from a sixteenth-century marble mountain in Carrara, Italy, to late twentieth-century New York City?
     
  • In the Acknowledgments, McBride says that the book began when he was boy listening to his stepfather and step-uncles tell stories about the war. What struck him most forcefully was not the stories themselves but his Uncle Henry's pride in his service. In what ways does the novel—and its stories of the Buffalo Soldiers of the 92nd Division—reflect that pride?
     
  • Train, Stamps, Bishop, and Hector are four distinctive and vividly drawn characters. How are they different from one another? What varying attitudes do they have about the war? What larger themes does McBride address through the conflict between Bishop and Stamps?
     
  • In a moment of mistrust of the Italians, Hector thinks: "He was glad he didn't love anybody. It was easier, safer, not to love somebody, not to have children and raise kids in this crummy world where a Puerto Rican wants to kill an innocent woman for doing nothing more than trying to help him" [p. 138]. Why would Hector feel this way? In what sense is the entire novel about love and the risk of loving?

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Miracle at St. Anna 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rarely have I encountered a book that moved me as much as James McBride¿s Miracle at St. Anna. Not only should it be declared an American classic, every college should make it part of their freshman reading list. McBride engages the seldom mentioned subject of black combat soldiers in World War II. Four members of the famed 92nd Infantry Division (the Buffalo Soldiers), find themselves trapped behind enemy lines in Tuscany. Surrounded by Germans, the quartet rescues a small Italian boy who proves to be the catalyst in each man¿s quest for courage, love, sacrifice, and honor. The poignancy of their battle is emphasized by the ambivalence they each experience over fighting for freedoms in Europe that they are not afforded in their own country. Each man accepts the challenge, albeit reluctantly at times, exhibiting a depth of character and humanity previously unknown to them. McBride weaves a theme of invisibility into the story that translates into the moral invincibility of the main characters. McBride has studied and practiced his craft well. I can honestly say that I feel privileged to have read his work. I hope to see more novels from him in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story was one of the best novels that I have read in years. This real life story was written in vivid detail. Amidst the violence and hatred stands LOVE. Love which 'covers a multitude of sins.' Breathtaking, disturbing, horrifying, tantalizing, and heartwarming, all describe the tone of this wonderful story. Blacks and other minorities are often discounted and not seen as viable forces within society. This book shows the mindset of some 'non-minorities' that continues to strive in today's world. It is good to know that the Buffalo Soldiers and other minorities had a major contribution towards resolving WWII. I was not only entertained but educated. This novel not only touched me personally but taught me the 'history' of the Buffalo Soldiers. I never knew why black troops carried that name, but the author eloquently explains that while telling an exciting story which bonded people of all races into one LOVE. Mr. James Mcbride deserves an award for this novel. I highly recommend this book for your library.
WW2-lover More than 1 year ago
This a great story!!! Any one who loves WW2 would enjoy this book! The book is very moving and I thoroughly enjoyed it! This book is a MUST READ!
Natalie220 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I usually don't read war novels but I loved this book. I grew attached to Train and the young boy instantly and I was at the edge of my seat every time they were in danger. This was a heartbreaking story of brotherhood and loyalty. And a great insight of all the pain that World War II caused. And the ending couldn't have been better.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story here is well worth reading, so if it sounds interesting, I'd recommend it, but the writing can be a bit jarring at times. Changes in first person aren't always given enough depth to feel necessary, and there are Many "he saids, she saids" that are...well, just awkward. I'm also a big fan of finding the one perfect metaphor instead of listing five--McBride isn't. In the end, I enjoyed the story, and there are some moments even of brilliance to the point where what Should be a contrived ending ends up working, but I'd rather he'd have spent 50 of the 300 pages on depth instead of somewhat self-indulgent description. Still, recommended based on the characters and story. I'd read it before you see the film coming out this fall.
Bookmomhp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderful, magical story. Some of the war-related details made it a bit slow for me in parts, but overall a very good read.
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Over in Italy, 4 soldiers from the US Army's Negro 92nd Division are separated from their unit because of inept commands. They face the horror of having seen some of their platoon mates blown up and shot down in front of them. This is a story of how they found a quiet little village of St Anna di Stazzema in Tuscany, and how despite the horrors of war, they managed a few days of peace and relative normalcy among the villagers.One soldier, Sam Train, is from the South, illiterate and a simple man ... he's also really large. All he wants is to get out of Italy and go home to his grandmother. He finds the marble head of the bust of Primavera, and thinks it's magic, so he keeps it with him at all times. He finds a little boy, shell-shocked and injured, hidden under a haystack, scoops him up, and tries to find medical help for him.Bishop is a manipulative con-man, who found people would drown him in money if he pretended to be a preacher and dish out fire and brimstone sermons while telling his growing congregation not to give him money but to come to him only because they wanted their souls to be saved.Hector is Hispanic, so he doesn't know why he's even with this division except that he's a little darker than his cousin who also signed up and was assigned to the white division. So he's disgruntled, has sleep apnea and definitely hates the war, hates Italy and figures he's got the short end of the stick being lumped with this lot.The last, Stamps, is their lieutenant, tries to lead them back to their division but is challenged by their commander's demand at the base, that they hold their position until they capture a German soldier.While fictitious, there's enough historical facts woven into this story to bring the the horror and terror of wartime Italy to the reader. The author also does a wonderful job of bringing out the depth of each character, and in the case of the separated soldiers, their memories and bitter resentment against the unfair treatment they faced back home before the war, in the war, and what they know they will once again face in terms of discrimination when they go home after the war.This is one of those books that plucks at your heartstrings, brings tears of sorrow to your eyes, twists your gut in anger, and gives you a little chuckle every now and again.
brodiew2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Overall, I found this book very rewarding. There were times in the middle, after the main plot had been solidified, that the author's tangents into Italian history and personal histories of characters intoduced midaway, were a bit mystifying. But, as I read those sections, I was wrapped up in them as a microcosm of the greater story. McBride richly draws his characters in their own right, as the story progresses, which leads to a meeting of peoples with different histories, cultures, attitudes, and feelings. You have the African-american soldiers, the Italian villagers, and the young Italian partisans. Each has their own agenda, their own needs, their own thoughts on surviving the war. At its core, I found this book to be about the heart of Italy during WWII. It is about how much had been lost. Yet in the wake of such tragedy and death, hope, pride, love, and freedom came alive.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed listening to this book, the reader was excellent. He truly made each character distinct. I usually would not be attracted to books about war but picked it up due to good reviews for Mr. McBride's previous work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Without a doubt, this is one of the most rewarding novels that I have read. I think this is a must read for all ages. It is, at once, a lesson in story telling and the power of love to avenge evil. For certain, the story does not pretent to resolve all the injustices that it reveals but one cannot help but appreciate the power of them all. The experience was for me life affirming.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book captures your imagination and sets you free on the final page. By story's end you will feel warn, as if you have just met new friends. Good story telling.