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A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
A Thread of Grace is set in northern Italy during the waning days of World War II. European Jews trying to stay one step ahead of the Nazis cross the Alps into northern Italy, believing they'd find safety since Italy converted to the Allied side of the war. Two of these Jews are 14-year-old Claudette Blum and her father, losing everything they had, including Claudette's mother, in their scramble through the mountains. They find northern Italy a dangerous place full of Nazis, fascists, Catholics, Jews, spies, and collaborators. Many of the local populace aid in hiding the Jews from the Nazis, often paying the ultimate price for their compassion. Claudette, a bright young woman full of life, finds that survival means giving up much that makes a life worth living. Mary Doria Russell's complex story has received mixed reviews with the Seattle Times calling it "densely populated, well-plotted novel, which is thick with intersecting plots and characters - most of them both colorful and memorable."