Friday, December 9, 2011
Between Shades of Gray
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.
This book is beautiful and sad. I've always loved Holocaust/War books - not for their subject matter obviously, but because there are so many stories of people rising above their circumstances with bravery and hope. Reading books like this remind me that I have absolutely nothing to complain about. If Lina managed to stay positive, then I have no reason to ever be pessimistic. I loved Lina. Such courage and beauty. Ruta Sepetys does a beautiful job of describing her and really, all her writing was beautiful. It was the light moments interspersed throughout the book that made me especially love this novel. One moment towards the end involving a Dickens book made me bawl and laugh at the same time. I was really moved by this story and these characters. While this book's characters are fictional, the story is based on true stories of families that were deported from Baltic countries at the beginning of World War II. It's a little-known chapter of history, and while it's ugly, I feel like I'm a better person for knowing what these people went through. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and help them all, take some fruits and vegetables to the kids who were dying of malnutrition. It just breaks my heart to read about them and makes me so grateful for the plenty that my family enjoys. This is a powerful book, right up there with Corrie Ten Boom's The Hiding Place and I plan to buy it so I can lend it out to everyone I know.