“There’s a saying in Hebrew,” he tells her, ‘No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there’s always a thread of grace.’”
I lost sleep over this gripping book. Several nights in a row.
Midnight, I’m exhausted, Dom’s sleeping soundly next to me and I know I need to just turn off the light and go to sleep. But I can’t. Just a few more pages. A little more. A little more. Compelling. Addictive.
It’s a historical novel, set in northern Italy during the German occupation (1943-45) and follows a large cast of characters: Italian Jews, Jewish refugees from other parts of Europe, priests, nuns, peasants, children, old ladies, members of the Italian resistance, a German SS doctor. Their movements form a rich tapestry through which is woven the “thread of grace” of the title.
That grace is always in stark contrast with the horrors. Russell doesn’t pull any punches. All the ugliness and brutality, the inhumanity and cruelty, the death and the maiming and the senseless violence of war are portrayed in terrible, nitty-gritty detail. And yet it is done in a way that the brutality emphasizes the slender thread, that would be so easy to miss, of heroism and sacrifice, faith and love that are the best of what humanity has to offer in such times.
I loved Mary Doria Russell’s first two novels, The Sparrow and its sequel, Children of God, both excellent science fiction. I was a little afraid I wouldn’t like this one because it wasn’t science fiction. But I’m glad I gave it a chance. I was richly rewarded for my trouble.