Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Bookinistas: Between Shades of Gray

I've read a few WWII books over the years. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Sarah's Key and The Book Thief come to mind as well as Unbroken which is on my wish list and I've heard is excellent.
But Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys tells a story I have never heard. A story so tragic and heartbreaking and yet hopeful all at the same time. Before you read on, check out Ruta's video. It is absolutely incredible.

Here's what the back cover has to say: 
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.

Lila's Take:

This book was not easy to read. In fact, I cried during the first chapter and consistently throughout. It's the kind of book that makes you question humanity and makes you wonder how people could ever be treated in such inhumane ways. And yet woven through the story was a thread of hope--Lina's will to survive, her mother's spirit and generosity despite the circumstances, the power of all different types of love. And it was in these storylines that I was able to maintain my sense of faith in people.

My favorite part of this book was Lina's character. Like any other teenager, she questions everything and struggles to come to terms with what is happening all around her. At one point, her mother shows kindness to a woman who Lina hates and she can't understand why. But as the novel continues, she grows and learns and finally understands. I love the similarities between Lina's character and any other teenager. It allows the reader to connect and imagine how or if they could prevail under the same circumstances. Honestly, I don't know that I could. It's truly unbelievable that anyone survived.

Most shocking is the fact that this story had been kept a secret for many years. Some survivors didn't make it home until 1954. This was unbelievable to me. And then when they made it home, they couldn't tell a soul about their story for fear of death or deportation back to Siberia. Everyone should read this to uncover the secret and learn about the will to survive and the cost of freedom. It's hard to believe anything like this ever happened and yet we haven't truly learned from our past mistakes either. Let's hope that books like this can help.

Here's what the other Bookanistas are up to this week!


17 comments:

Matthew Rush said...

This sounds like just the kind of thing I'd be into. Thanks LiLa.

And why is there text that looks like it's scrawled in blood floating over there -> near Kate's head?

Tracey Neithercott said...

That sounds really good. Does it come with a free box of Kleenex? I think I'll need that.

Also, love your new pink hair in your profile pic. :)

K.D. Anderson said...

WHEN? DID YOU GET THE PINK WIGS???? I am dying over here. SO cute!!!!!

Elana Johnson said...

I loved this book. So haunting and yet so hopeful too.

Carrie Harris said...

I bought a bunch of kleenex at the store yesterday in preparation for this book.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Gives me shivers just to read your review. So nicely done, Lisa and Laura. I must read this, even though I'm against crying in first chapters, on principle. But I'll make an exception for such a beautiful book.

beth said...

YESYESYES. This one = amazing.

Jessi Kirby said...

Looks like I'm gonna need to sign up for this one too! Great review!

Nicole Zoltack said...

Love the new avatar!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

The book sounds powerful and awesome, but it can't compare to the pink hair in your avatar! :-)

Matt Blackstone said...

Great review! Can't wait to read this!

Dara said...

I have this on my TBR list and am waiting for the library to finally get it. I am anxious to read it!

Arlee Bird said...

This sounds like an enervating, but highly rewarding read. Most of us cushy Americans will never know the suffering that some people in the world have had to endure and I hope that is always the case. A most enticing review.

We are doing the Blogging from A to Z Challenge again this year. If you'd like to know more please click on the link below.

Lee
Tossing It Out and the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2011

Shana Silver said...

Wow, this book sounds gut wrenching and haunting. I can't stop thinking about the fact that some survivors didn't make it home until 1954. Wow.

Ruta Sepetys said...

Thanks so much for reading my book!
The Bookinistas are the BEST!!

Jan von Harz said...

This is on my must read list for the year. Great review, I will make sure I have plenty of Kleenex before I start.

Leslie Rose said...

I had the please of meeting you in the line for Starbucks at the SCBWI LA Conference, Ruta. I still have your bookmark. Congratulations on the book. I'm going to rush to the bookstore right this minute to buy it for myself and a wonderful LIthuanian family I know who have been waiting for it to come out.

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