Publish Date: March 22, 2011
Hardcover, 344 pages
Why I read this: I was taken in by the starkness of the cover and the blurb.
Between Shades of Gray is a beautiful and powerful book that tells a story of World War II that most of us don't know. It tells the story of the countries that were overpowered by Stalin and Hitler and what happened to the people who opposed these new governments and wanted to retain their patriotism to their home countries. I know I knew nothing of what happened to countries like Lithuania and Latvia. We mostly hear about the Jewish people during World War II and with good reason, but the Lithuanians and Latvians were also ripped from their countries and hidden in farming and work camps as free labor for the Soviets. Wow, such new knowledge and the book brings it to light in an amazing way as we follow Lina, her mother and her brother and their trek from their home country all the way up to the Artic Circle (and a map is provided in the book to show the various places they were and how truly long the trek was.
Lina was an amazing character. She demonstrates the typical teenage emotions. She just wanted to be a normal teenager, draw, create her art and go on to train with a great artist. Just a normal life. Instead her life is stormed into by Soviet forces and she is forced to travel is absolutely horrid conditions to work camps where the conditions are not much better. I like how she grows during the book from a selfish teenager to a strong young woman that just wants to hold the small group she is in together through the tough times. She truly makes the book and Ms. Sepetys has created an amazing character in Lina.
If you have been holding off on this because of what seems like harsh subject matter like I was, please get the book and read it. It's sad yes, but there is hope in the novel as well and strength of spirit. I truly found it as inspiring as it was sad. Ms. Sepetys does a marvelous job giving the book just the right tone so it doesn't cross over to completely depressing as it could easily have done.
I am so glad I read this book and learned about the little-known part of history. I admire the Lithuanians and the Latvians and the others who persevered in these harsh conditions and I admire Ms. Setpetys for telling their story.
My Rating: 4.75/5.0
About the Book:
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously—and at great risk—documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.About the Author (from her website):
FTC Information: I received this book from the publisher for a honest review. I have Amazon links on my review pages but I do not make any money from these because of NC laws. I put them solely for people to check out the books on a retail site.