The Italian Ballerina

Kristy Cambron. Thomas Nelson, $16.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-7852-3219-3

This poignant WWII historical from Cambron (The Paris Dressmaker) follows a Jewish Italian girl and her American protector as they try to survive Mussolini’s fall from power. In 1943 Rome, friars rescue Julia Bradbury, an English prima ballerina, after a random act of violence by Mussolini’s followers. Meanwhile, American medics A.J. Nelson and Court Coleman get separated from their unit while in Rome. After Court sustains injuries while saving a Jewish girl from the Gestapo, all three seek refuge with the friars on Tiber Island. There they meet Julia and discover that the friars are hiding Jewish refugees under the pretense that they are ill with the invented “Syndrome K.” In the present day, Delaney Coleman travels from Indiana to Tivoli, Italy, to return a suitcase found among her late grandfather’s things. It belongs to Calla Santini, a former ballerina battling dementia, and Delaney teams up with Calla’s grandson to decipher their grandparents’ letters to each other and uncover the story behind the suitcase, in the process revealing the role divine providence played in steering their grandparents’ lives. The convincingly rendered characters humanize the horrors of war, and the girl’s insistence that God sent Court to save her testifies to the power of faith in dire times. Readers will want to keep some tissues handy. (July)
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