A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
A Novel

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Set in Italy during the dramatic finale of World War II, this new novel is the first in seven years by the bestselling author of The Sparrow and Children of God.

It is September 8, 1943, and fourteen-year-old Claudette Blum is learning Italian with a suitcase in her hand. She and her father are among the thousands of Jewish refugees scrambling over the Alps toward Italy, where they hope to be safe at last, now that the Italians have broken with Germany and made a separate peace with the Allies. The Blums will soon discover that Italy is anything but peaceful, as it becomes overnight an open battleground among the Nazis, the Allies, resistance fighters, Jews in hiding, and ordinary Italian civilians trying to survive.

Mary Doria Russell sets her first historical novel against this dramatic background, tracing the lives of a handful of fascinating characters. Through them, she tells the little-known but true story of the network of Italian citizens who saved the lives of forty-three thousand Jews during the war’s final phase. The result of five years of meticulous research, A Thread of Grace is an ambitious, engrossing novel of ideas, history, and marvelous characters that will please Russell’s many fans and earn her even more.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Mary Doria Russell

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Mary Doria Russell received her B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Illinois-Urbana, her M.A. in Social Anthropology from Northeastern University, and her Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. In the process of earning her degrees, Russell studied linguistics, genetics, anatomy, archaeology, and geology-all of which have found their way into her critically acclaimed debut novel. Prior to The Sparrow, Russell had only written scientific articles-on subjects ranging from bone biology to cannibalism-and technical manuals for medical equipment as complex as nuclear magnetic resonance scanners. In her own words, she admits, "I had a great time, published a lot of stuff, won a bunch of awards and grants, but eventually got fed up with academia and quit." Making the transition from scientific and technical writing to fiction wasn't easy. Russell estimates, however, that "only about twenty-two anthropologists, world-wide, read my academic publications and nobody reads computer manuals, so I figured that if even just my friends read my novel, I'd be way ahead in terms of readership because I have a lot of friends." A recent convert to Judaism, Russell has nevertheless maintained a strong connection with the Catholic education of her childhood. Asked why she created such a detailed look at faith in a higher power and religion in her debut novel, Russell explains, "I wanted to evaluate, as an adult, issues that had lain dormant for me since adolescence, to study the religion of my youth, to revisit the source of my values and ethics. That's why I chose to write about men who are collectively among the most admirable and best educated of Catholic priests, the Jesuits. Writing The Sparrow allowed me to weigh the risks and the benefits of a belief in God, to examine the role of religion in the lives of many people." Mary Doria Russell lives in Cleveland, Ohio, ("and likes it very much, thank you") with her husband, Don, and their son, Daniel. She is currently working on the sequel to The Sparrow, titled Children of God.
Published February 1, 2005 by Random House. 460 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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An odd coalition of native Italian Jews, Roman Catholic clergy, communists, and unaffiliated anti-Fascists, have united in a conspiracy to protect the stream of refugees coming on foot through the mountain passes from France at the very moment that the Nazis are turning against their former Itali...

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The Guardian

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A Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell 448pp, Doubleday, £16.99 1943, Anno Fascista XXII: across the Maritime Alps a remnant of the French Jews climb, shepherded by Italian soldiers returning to their homeland, for Italy has broken with Nazi Germany and surrendered to the Allies.

Mar 12 2005 | Read Full Review of A Thread of Grace: A Novel

Book Reporter

" 'No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there's always a thread of grace.' " Mary Doria Russell's novel is a bit like a great textile --- rich and broad and intricately figured --- and in its design there is a glint of something like hope.

Jan 23 2011 | Read Full Review of A Thread of Grace: A Novel

Entertainment Weekly

This busy WWII saga dramatizes the experience of Jews in Italy — the country with the highest Jewish survival rate in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Jan 31 2005 | Read Full Review of A Thread of Grace: A Novel


Because her third novel brims with priests and peasants and aristocrats who risked their lives to shelter Jews in Italy during the last, ugly months of World War II, Mary Russell knew that some might peg it as sentimental.

Feb 21 2005 | Read Full Review of A Thread of Grace: A Novel

Bookmarks Magazine

Thread of Grace, based on five years of research, questions the horror of human capacity for evil while celebrating the compassion of the Italian citizens who saved 43,000 Jews by the end of the war.

Jan 11 2008 | Read Full Review of A Thread of Grace: A Novel

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