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Wolf's Mouth by John Smolens
The title is derived from the Italian saying Crepi il lupo which translates: “I’m going into the wolf’s mouth and may he choke on me.” The expression offers someone good luck, and Francesco could certainly use some. Drafted into Mussolini’s army, Francesco ends up in a POW camp in AuTrain, Michigan. There is one other Italian prisoner and a smattering of Poles, but the bulk of prisoners are Nazis who take over.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but I do want you to know this is an extremely good novel. Smolens writes with great empathy for Francesco. There are so many elements that many Americans can identify with—being a stranger in a strange land; bureaucratic nightmares; constant paranoia; trying one’s best to be a “good American”. The plot spans many decades and most of the action takes place in Michigan. It would be fascinating to learn what became of these prisoners of war. Did they assimilate legally/illegally into the US? Did they return to their homelands?
To me the strong feelings the writer evokes really makes the book shine. I loved these characters and felt compassion for their situations. This is an American story from a very pivotal time in world history. Who knew that it is also our very local history too? I loved it and am excited for the whole community to discuss it.~Dianne
For more information on the program, please go to www.nmu.edu/onebookmqt