Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys

Between Shades of GrayBetween Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel
Publish Date: March 22, 2011
Hardcover, 344 pages 
Fiction, Historical

My Review:
Why I read this: I was taken in by the starkness of the cover and the blurb.

My thoughts:
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): 

Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY is her debut novel and is based on her family’s history. "It's a story of extreme suffering, tremendous hope, and how sometimes love reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit," says Sepetys. Ruta now lives with her family in Tennessee.

Author Website
Book 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.

It's Monday What Are You Reading - March 28

Come post weekly and see what others are reading too just so you can add to your tbr - I always do! For more information see Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books and join in! 

Books Completed Last Week 
Reading Now: 
  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffeneger (audio, car)
  • Drought by Pam Bachorz (audio, mp3 player)
  • Night Road by Kristin Hannah (review)
  • Dragon Lady by Gary Alexander (kindle, review)
  • Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter (YA, review)
  • Horns by Joey Hill
  • The Arrow Chest by Robert Parry
  • Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult
  • Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution by Michelle Moran
  • The Emperor's Tomb by Steve Berry
  • Red Wolf by Liza Marklund

Summary -

I thought last week was crazy - this one was even crazier - my reading was definitely down and my big news of the week - I'm wearing reading glasses.  I was having daily headaches and I thought about the amount I read, plus spending all day on the computer at work and then thought about my age (getting closer to 40) and decided to try them out.  Would you believe, no more headaches!

I promise there will be more reading this week, but I do need to do start our taxes finally and get ready for some other things in April as well, so I don't know what next weekend will bring.  This one brought a game for my youngest (they lost) and two games for my oldest (they won both) and a lot of fun for me at the ballfield.  It also brought a flare-up which has confined me pretty much to my corner chair today (Sunday).  Hopefully it will get under control and I will start off the week feeling well.

Best of the weekBoth books read this week were great in their own way - one for the romance and escapism the other for it's realism so I can't choose this week.

How was your week?