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Miracle at St. Anna (James McBride)

The setting is Italy in World War II. Four Buffalo Soldiers — members of the 92nd Division, which had African-American soldiers and white commanders — get cut off from their unit and find themselves trapped in a small, mostly ruined village that has already survived one devastating German attack in reprisal for suspected partisan activities. Smart, responsible Lt. Stamps, conniving, charming ex-street preacher Bishop, moony, trilingual Puerto Rican Hector, and the simple gentle giant Train, who has taken a badly injured Italian boy under his wing, spend several days in the village, wondering how to follow their orders to capture a German for questioning, waiting for their army to come and get them before the Germans do, and learning a lot about the villagers and themselves. When partisans show up with a German prisoner, things start to happen, fast and furious and ugly.

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This is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in this period of history. You should note that there are some grisly episodes of violence - it's a war story - but McBride has a journalist's detachment about these incidents and doesn't wallow in them, which helps.

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