This is an excellent example of international history that as an American reader, I would never have known had I not read this book. While it is a work of fiction, the events described here are as heart wrenching as any true story I have heard coming out of the dark days of WWII.
This story revolves around Amerigo, a young boy living in the ruins of post-war southern Italy. Money is tight and food is scarce, so in a desperate attempt to provide a better life for her son, Amerigo's mother sends him on a train as a part of a Communist run program that sets up a home stay in northern Italy. The children stay with the northern families for a year, and they are provided for with food and shelter, and they even have the opportunity to learn a trade based on their host's professions.
The story is narrated by Amerigo himself, and to view this unknown existence through the eyes of a 7-year-old is at times amusing and at times completely heartbreaking. The readers view through his eyes the fear that comes from displacement, and the challenges of understanding the political machinations that drive these sorts of initiatives. We see the raw emotions and reactions to such an impossible situation, as only a child can express.
Amerigo essentially becomes a child of two worlds: the only home he has ever known and a whole new world of opportunity and understanding. This book is thought provoking and truly incredible from a historical perspective. I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in world history, and anyone with an interest in the remarkable stories of resilience that come from the horrors of war.