I’ve seen this title floating around for awhile and had heard it was great, but I really didn’t know much about it. I had added it to my “to-read” list at some point and when I saw it was available on Kindle Unlimited, I went ahead and downloaded it. I have read a great number of books about World War II, but I had never heard the story of Pino Lella. As told to the author, Mark Sullivan, Pino’s story is one of the most dramatic and craziest I’ve read, outside of Holocaust stories. And this one is sad, make no mistake, but it’s also really interesting and unique.
Pino is just an Italian kid trying to avoid being drafted into a war he doesn’t support. His family sends him and his younger brother to a church/school where Pino learns to climb the Alps to help persecuted Jews escape to freedom. Clearly, we see which side Pino is on and rooting for him is easy. Once he turns eighteen, he is expected to join the war, though. So he agrees to join voluntarily and gets assigned to be a diver for Hitler’s left-hand man, a German in Italy who must communicate with Mussolini, decide where “slaves” are deported, which weapons need to be delivered to which location, etc. Pino turns spy. He reports everything to the authorities, never forgetting where his allegiences lie.
There is a really beautiful love story woven in with the war. And knowing all this really happened and that Pino is a real person is just heartbreaking and amazing. I’ve learned that nothing is unfathomable when it comes to World War II and that I should never be surprised when I read another true account, but this was one I didn’t see coming. Once Pino starts driving for the general, I really couldn’t put the book down. I knew Pino lived (spoiler alert, he has to tell the author his story….) but I was constantly wondering where the main players in his story would end up. I really enjoyed this one and think it’s one of the highlights of my year.