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Wolf's Mouth

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  167 ratings  ·  35 reviews
In 1944 Italian officer Captain Francesco Verdi is captured by Allied forces in North Africa and shipped to a POW camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where the senior POW, the ruthless Kommandant Vogel, demands that all prisoners adhere to his Nazi dictates. His life threatened, Verdi escapes from the camp and meets up with an American woman, Chiara Frangiapani, who helps ...more
Hardcover, 267 pages
Published February 1st 2016 by Michigan State University Press
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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  167 ratings  ·  35 reviews

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Oct 23, 2016 rated it liked it
First of all, as a Michigander, I enjoy reading books that either, a have an author from this state or, b the story takes place in Michigan. That would be the reason for reading this book, which starts out in the UP and is largely based in Michigan throughout the story.

The story has great potential and is interesting, from the beginning to the end, however... I didn't feel as if I was connecting with the characters, as if they were plastic people without backgrounds. Some of the scenes were kind
Kelly O'toole
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
My favorite books are the ones that make me think and feel at the same time, the ones that have changed me for the better by the time I have turned the final page. Smolens’ Wolf’s Mouth is a new favorite.

The story begins in 1944 as World War II is drawing to a close. Francesco “Frank” Verdi is a young Italian POW logging the forest at Camp Au Train in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The labor is monontonous, but there is adequate food, comfortable lodging, and music, art and education on offer. He c
Jo Fetsco
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
As the book begins, Frank Green, previously Francesco Verdi, is an Italian in a POW camp, Camp Au Train, near Munising, Michigan.  (Who knew there were POW camps in Michigan during WWII?!?)   Even though it is an American-run POW camp, the Nazis, specifically Kommandant Vogel, a man known for vengeance, violence, and his strong belief in the Nazi ideals, runs the camp, meting out “justice” to anyone who does not follow Vogel’s commands or follow the Third Reich way.  Verdi escapes after finding ...more
Mary Simmons
May 06, 2018 rated it did not like it
We read this for my english class at northern and about 3 people of the 20 liked the book. The characters started out with great potential but turned out really bland. Actually, the entire book was horribly bland. Could have been finished in a few chapters but seemed stretch out too much. Plus transitions were really choppy. Honestly, would not recommend this book to anyone.
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Read this one in 3 evenings. Fast paced, have been to many of the towns/cities in the story. Easy to read. Picked this one up because the author is a professor at the college my child attends. Glad I did.
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: smolens
finished this morning, 5:07 a.m. 15 jul 17 good story 4-star. great story-line.
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wolfs mouth

The book dragged at the beginning but when the main character escaped it became "Do Not Put Me Down. Great read
Mar 05, 2019 rated it liked it
In 1944 Italian officer Captain Francesco Verdi is captured by Allied forces in North Africa and shipped to a POW camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where the senior POW, the ruthless Kommandant Vogel, demands that all prisoners adhere to his Nazi dictates. His life threatened, Verdi escapes from the camp and meets up with an American woman, Chiara Frangiapani, who helps him elude capture as they flee to the Lower Peninsula. By 1956 they have become Frank and Claire Green, a young married coupl ...more
Sydney ✨
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I would give this a solid 3.5.

At first, I thought this would just be a mediocre book about the UP. But it was so much more than that. It had twists and turns I didn’t expect, things that shock you, and an amazing ending. Who knew there were actually POW camps in the UP in WWII? Not I, and I’ve lived in Michigan my whole life. I wish that I could know more about the other prisoners and what they’re lives were like but then it would have been a thousand page book.
I think the reason this isn’t a
Florence Primrose
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
In 1944 Italian prisoner, Francesco Verdi, is sent to UP Michigan. The camp commander, Vogel, is convinced prisoners must do what they can to cause trouble and kill or they must fight Americans. After Francesco saves a baby from a burning house he is convicted and sentenced to death. He knows he must leave or he will be killed.

He escapes to the burned-out house and eventually is helped by a neighbor.

This is an excellent story with many twists and turns as well as a love story and back woods dram
Feb 22, 2020 rated it liked it
The shadows of war stretch far. Prior reviews give details about the plot, which I won't rehash here. I was not aware of the POW camps in the UP during WWII, so that was interesting. And the Nazis' continued efforts to find "traitors" long after the war ended was also interesting. But some plot twists needed more development such as (spoiler alert here: the quickie second marriage after the death of his beloved wife??) I also wished I knew more about Adino's life when he returned to Italy.... Fi ...more
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A chilling story of an Italian POW held in a camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan among the many German POWs where he watched the cruelty of the Nazi Kommandant to the prisoners. Post POW camp life seemed good, but held so much sorrow, and perpetual fear of being pursued by the relentless Nazi. I had no idea of these camps or this history, even though I have been to the UP. A welcome book to know some of the hidden horrors of history.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book as it was written about our local area. I wasn't aware that so much had occurred here during this time from (camps, etc). It was eye opening. I hope to explore and find the area that the book is written about.
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kent District Library
Dec 18, 2019 is currently reading it
Join us for a friendly, informal discussion led by members of the Friends. This month's title is Wolf's Mouth by John Smolens. Discussion will take place at Kent District Library's Cascade branch, on January 20, 2020 from 10-11 am.
Dec 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Gripping well written historical novel of WWII and post war era, centered in Michigan. Quiet, intense heroism; persistent and all-too believable evil. Exceptionally well-told tale.
Patricia Goodman
Feb 14, 2018 rated it liked it
The story of an Italian officer's time in a prison camp of war in the US and the Nazi officer who tracked him down after he had escaped.
Marcia T Wilhelm
Jul 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I lived in Southeast Michigan my whole life and never knew that these prison camps existed! This is a great story and we should all be aware of the personal struggles and the side effects of war.
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
I had to read this book for class. This book was okay. I didn't really get too invested in the story, but it was an alright read.
Lana Hasper
I read this book while staying at a campground in Munising.
Cory Himmelspach Wholehan
As a Michigander I was attracted to this book because of its setting. And I enjoyed the story along the way! I also learned parts of Michigan history I was not aware of.
Rachel Sturdevant
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Short easy read. A story based on truth I never knew
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great story!
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Our March SAC Book Group selection. Interesting end of war story. I learned a lot reading this book including the fact that we had POW camps in Michigan -- never knew that. Great character study of how the war turned lives upside-down. The main character changes his name and location but somehow never escapes the time he spent as a prisoner. Although he lives a full life with wife and children and business opportunities, the war experience never left him.
Sep 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent Storyline

This is a book that I would never have chosen on my own to read, but I read it because it was on a list of Michigan-based books that I have been whittling down. A fictional story, but based on historical fact. As a native Michigander, I am surprised that I never knew about the World War II POW camps in the U.P. of Michigan, so this information was eye-opening. The storyline was so interesting and the characters well-developed. I enjoyed following Captain Verdi's life through t
Karen Ryder
Jul 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My son read this book for one of his classes at Northern Michigan University. He enjoyed it and suggested I read it. It started a little slow, but before I knew it, I was totally engrossed. I loved that the names of the places in Northern Michigan were familiar to me, and it seemed to pull me in deeper. Captain Francesco Verdi, the main character, was easy to love. He escapes from a POW camp located in the Upper Peninsula, finds help from the Frangiapani mother and daughter. Chiara, the daughter ...more
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
The first few pages almost made me put the book down. The 'f' word was like 4 on one page- but I continued and it got really good. No more swearing and the story line was great! Very cool reading about different places in MI. I really liked it after the first few pages!
Joe Holman
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Excellent book about an enemy in a state-side American POW camp during WWII and how he and others stayed here under false names after the war.

An important story told through the eyes of a captain in the Italian Army who was a POW in a camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Nov 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Engaging novel highlighting the WWII POW camps in Upper Michigan and the man who escaped the camp but how the experience followed him the rest of his life.
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According to Northern Michigan University's website, John Smolens "...has published five novels Cold, The Invisible World, Fire Point, Angel’s Head, and Winter by Degrees, and one collection of short stories (My One and Only Bomb Shelter.) Cold was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and the Detroit Free Press selected Fire Point as the best book by a Michigan author in 2 ...more

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