Somehow, although it has the distinctly terrestrial setting of nothern Italy during WWII, this book fits right in with Russell's previous work. I enjoyed her previous 2 novels, and I enjoyed this one. It's well-written. But you need to be prepared for similar situations. Mostly good people stuck in hopeless, tragic situations. A great deal of kindness in the face of overwhelming evil. Faith without hope, somehow.
The story begins with the surrender of Italy during WWII. This surrender enrages Germany (really just Hitler, but he was pretty much their spokesman at the time), and Germany occupies Italy, battling the Italians who are trying to rise against them within and the Allies who are attacking from without. In nothern Italy, Jewish refugees and Italian soldiers who had been in southern France scale the Alps and melt into the Italian villages, becoming anti-German fighters of various stripes. We've forgotten, for the most part, what it's like to live in a war zone as Americans, but this book brings it all alive. These are families, individuals who never intended to make war, caught up in the struggle for survival against multiple sources.
The characters are a little strange, and definitely Russell-esque. The cast of characters is always widening -- we start with several separate narratives, and they overlap and wrap around each other, with new characters introduced all the time, including in the last few pages of the book. They all have backstories, but they don't necessarily have depth. Each character is representative of something, and is a little short on individuality. It comes off, therefore, as more of a metaphorical tale of the human struggle against war rather than a masterpiece of individual characters.