Between Shades of Gray
By: Ruta Sepetys
Paperback, 344 pages
Published in 2011
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.
Warning: Contains Spoilers
To be honest, I never thought other people that weren't relevant to Germany and Jewish people were deported and treated poorly. Call me ignorant, but I always focused on the Jewish people in terms of deportation and never explored any other area. I did know that Stalin was also a cruel dictator, but this book helped me understand how far he went. When the Soviets sided with the Allies, they still continued to treat the people that were deported horridly. Let me talk about the actual story, now:
I loved Lina's personality. With almost any book I read, I seem to find something about the main character that makes me irritated or angry. With the situation Lina had to face, I was all with her. I believe that her father played an important role in her survival. Without her artistic talent and having that small conversation with her father when she snuck out of the train she was in, she probably would not have had as much of a will to survive and live. Her mother was there for her as a symbol to keep her head up, and her brother (Jonas) added on to that. It broke my heart when her mother gave up in trying to survive after the NKVD soldier told him that her husband had supposedly been shot. Jonas had also faltered at that point. Lina's mother was an incredibly strong woman who never ceased to have a bubbly personality. No matter how you look at it, Lina's father had been the one to keep Lina, Jonas, and their mother from not giving up.
The other characters really grabbed my attention as well. Each person came from a different world with different opinions, yet this entire journey had brought all of them together. Sepetys really did a good job on showing the fact that just one situation could bring an entire group of people together. Although the bald man made me angry at times, he was saying things for a reason. When it was revealed in the story later on that he was Jewish, it made sense for him to be so harsh and mean.
It was also interesting to read on how the NKVD acted. I found myself comparing them to the Nazis and realized that the Soviets carried out similar torture methods to innocent people, but on a different level of degree. Kretzsky, specifically, didn't like the fact that thousands of people were being tortured, but he continued to act cruel anyway because he simply had no other choice. It reminded me of the Hitler Youth and how people were forced to join the Nazi soldiers.
This book took me to a world of fear, persistence, and not knowing where fate takes you next. I enjoyed every minute of this book, and I now know better to not just focus in one area of subject.
This book has an official website, and I personally found it really cool! If you want to find out more about this book, it's definitely the place to go!