It's World War II. The Americans are fighting their way up Italy. Four soldiers (three African Americans and one Puerto Rican) get lost in the mountains. They find a traumatised Italian orphan in a destroyed church and seek refuge in an Italian village. The partisans are in the hills and there are Germans all around.
And in the midst of the distorting horrors of war, miracles occur.
There is no sentimentality about this book. The soldiers, and the Italians, and the partisans are all fully rounded characters, with strengths and weaknesses. There are moments of brutality and moments of comedy and many moments of great honesty.
Some great moments:
- "There is a saying in Florence that Florentines don't agree on anything. They simply say no to everything and continue saying no again and again ... Fourteen centuries of continually getting their asses kicked ... have, if nothing else, taught Florentines the value of silent virtue and cautious negativity." (Ch 5)
- "I think your cheese slid off your biscuit." (Ch 6)
- "When they pulled out their pistols, they touched the trigger and told the hammer to hurry." (Ch 7)
- "Put down that heavy sack and come over here, 'cause Somebody Special wants you. And He don't have no anger. He don't know no pain. He don't give no orders. He's a pain-getting-rid-of-er. That's His job. To get rid of your pain faster than this lemonade can do down your little red lane. Why? Ain't no why! He ain't gotta explain Hisself! He'll hurl your enemies down to low stones like he hurled Satan outta heaven, 'cause He's mighty. He's the baddest kitty kat in the firmament! He's got the mojo and the sayso. He knows truth. He knows justice. He knows your pain. And He will heal your pain right now, for free, if you just trust in Him. Ain't no cost to it! Ain't no buy-now-pay-later to this." (Ch 7)
- "I want your soul. You got an appointment to keep and I'm the secretary!" (Ch 7)
- "White folks own the world, goddammit. We're just rentin'" (Ch 12)
- "Chasing tail like they couldn't wait to get back to the womb." (Ch 14)
- "Everything he did had an error in it. He was a mistake, as his father used to say, a mistake that made more mistakes that were followed by still more mistakes." (Ch 20)
James McBride also wrote Deacon King Kong
|This review was written by the |
author of Motherdarling