During World War II, an American soldier escapes his German captors and struggles to make it back home alive in this historical novel based on a true story.
Angelo J. DiMarco enlists in the U.S. Army in 1942, and later decides to become an elite Army Ranger. He’s transferred to Algiers, and then sent for more training in Sicily, his parents’ native land. As the partnership between the Italians and the Germans withers, Nazis aggressively attempt to take over major Italian cities, and DiMarco’s battalion is charged with opposing the invasion in Salerno, Venafro and Cisterna, among other locations. He comes down with malaria and is transported to a military hospital in Naples, where he witnesses the savage wages of war. He rejoins his battalion in Cisterna, but they’re overwhelmed by German troops. His battalion’s lieutenant is summarily executed, and DiMarco is transported by truck to Rome, then sent to Munich by train. He pries some floorboards loose and escapes with three of his comrades from a moving train—although one dies instantly from the fall. DiMarco and the two remaining soldiers march miles to find safety, exhausted but resilient, living off scraps of food and mere spoonfuls of water. They eventually split up and DiMarco serendipitously finds Emilia Calabria, who helped him when he first escaped. Annechino (A Piece of You, 2015, etc.) writes this account in a vivid, novelistic manner from DiMarco’s first-person perspective. (DiMarco’s ordeal is based on a true story—Annechino is his real-life nephew.) The tale is simultaneously inspiring and harrowing, and the author skillfully portrays both DiMarco’s valor and his horror, as in this passage: “When I was on my knees on the ground, watching the German officer point his pistol at Michael’s head…everything I thought I knew about life itself was redefined; I learned how incredibly fragile and precious life is.” Annechino colorfully draws the action scenes, and richly brings the supporting cast of characters to life.
A moving tale of survival in war-torn Europe.