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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Review: Between Shades of Gray

Author: Ruta Sepetys
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Publisher: Philomel Books
Pages: 344
Source: Borrowed
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Summary:  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.
My Favorite Lines:
“Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness. There's love and emotion trying to express itself, but at the time, it just ends up being awkward.” 

“I looked down at the little pink face in the bundle. A newborn. The child had been alive only minutes but was already considered a criminal by the Soviets.” 

“Sometimes kindness can be delivered in a clumsy way. But it's far more sincere in its clumsiness than those distinguished men you read about in books. Your father was very clumsy.” 

Why I Loved It:  This book was pretty awesome.  It really was.  And the author?  Yea she is pretty incredible.  You can just feel the passion she has for this issue as you read the book.  Listening to her talk about the book made me need to read the book.  And once you read it, you find the writing is stunning.  And the story is beautiful and enough to move you to tears.

I have read many books dealing with the Holocaust and World War II.  They all revolved around Germany's conquests and the suffering of the Jews.  I had never quite heard about the Lithuanians that suffered under such cruel conditions.  I seriously hate that this is not a story more shared with students.  It was an atrocity that was overshadowed by the darkness of Hitler.

In this story, Lina is this bright and artistic girl.  She has been raised to think for herself, which has become very dangerous in the society around her.  One night her father did not come home, and the NKVD came in and took Lina, her mother, and her little brother away.  Thousands of others were taken from their home, put on trains, and sold off as laborers.  They lived under horrible conditions.  Lina and her family, with a lot of work, managed to stay together as they traveled from Lithuania.  As innocent people, they are treated as criminals, moved from place to place with no clear explanation.

The story follows Lina throughout the terrors that surround her as her circumstances affect her and her art.  Thankfully, in the midst of the horrors, Ms. Sepeptys managed to give her readers glimpses of hope throughout the frozen terrain.  It is a truly fantastic example of fine storytelling.

Finally, I must mention the research.  She went to Lithuania twice.  She talked to survivors.  And she went through a simulation of the prison Lithuanians would have went through.  It was an incredibly intense process.  It is incredibly commendable.

Who Should Read It:  I think this a story that everyone should read.  It is some fabulous historical fiction.

This is a video where the author talks about the book.  If you aren't already convinced to read it...

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