"Books can change your life. Some of the most influential people in our lives are characters we meet in books." —David McCullough
Pino Lella is an influential person in my life. Rachel raved about him last year in one of many sparkling conversations we had about books. Are we book nerds or what? Yes, yes we are. But if you’re being honest with yourselves, chances are you love a nerd. (Think Sheldon, Liz Lemon, and Ross—oh, and don’t forget my personal favorite, Dwight Schrute.) But I digress. Since Rae is the consummate book recommender, I made haste and read Beneath A Scarlett Sky only to meet one of my favorite war heroes. Ever.
Pino Lella, an Italian teenager full of adrenalized energy and charming dreams, was forced to put his aspirations on hold in the wake of the Second World War. His parents sent him to the quieter, safer countryside to save him from potential death. But Pino wasn’t content to sit idle during one of the world’s greatest atrocities. Instead, the seventeen-year-old opted to smuggle Jews out of Nazi-ridden Italy when he joined forces with the Catholic Church as part of the Italian resistance. I didn’t realize that nearly 20 percent of the Italian Jewish population was exterminated during Hitler’s regime—Sullivan’s story opened my eyes to the expansiveness of the Carpet-eater’s reach. Lella saved hundreds of Jews at his own peril. That story alone is heroic. The fact that the Italian boy later spied on General Hans Leyers, a Commander focused on weapons development (and the man responsible for slave labor in Italy to keep the German war machine going), adds to his remarkable true story.
I’ve never met a war hero I didn't like, but Pino was especially endearing. I will read his inspiring story again. And I’ll be the first in line to watch Hollywood’s rendition of his fascinating contributions to thwart the war effort. I’m in complete agreement with best-selling author Joseph Finder: “Beneath A Scarlet Sky has everything—heroism, courage, terror, true love, revenge, compassion in the face of the worst human evils. Sullivan shows us war as it really is, with all its complexities, conflicting loyalties, and unresolved questions, but most of all, he brings us the extraordinary figure of Pino Lella, whose determination to live con smania—with passion—saved him.”