Between Shades of Gray

First Lines: They took me in my nightgown.  Thinking back, the signs were there–family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work.

This was a book I had to read for a class, and I mean really read it.  I had to flag anything that could be used in a discussion.  I really got into the flagging.  That was fun.

It’s 1941 and 15 year old Lina is just like any other Lithuanian girl…until the night when the Soviet soldiers burst into her home and demanded that her family leave with the immediately.  Lina, her mother, and her younger brother are tossed onto a dirty train car.  They’re on their way to Siberia, to work on Soviet prison camps in the cruelest of conditions.  Lina, to keep her sanity and her hope alive, draws and tries to send them to her father in another labor camp so he’ll know that she’s still alive.  How long will this journey last?  How many will survive?

This is based on a true story.  I mean like, Ruta Sepetys interviewed actual survivors and put large amounts of their recollections into the story.  I had to lead a discussion on this book for class, and I needed a video.  The one I found had the actual interviews in them from her sources and it just made the story all the more real.

This story was freaking fantastic.  It’s a very detailed story, and it’s also full of literary metaphors (something I wouldn’t have picked up on so much if I wasn’t flagging everything I found interesting).  It has a very lyrical feel to it, even though it’s not written in verse.

The characters are also very interesting.  There are some characters you don’t think are going to be important or good until toward the end.  It’s kind of like life, really.  I mean, you meet all these different people and it’s not until you reflect on it all that you realize how big a part some people played in your own story.  Why am I getting so philosophical this morning?  Anyway, Lina and her family are obviously the characters that we know the most about.  The only qualm I have is that the kids don’t seem to act their age at all.  Granted, difficult times like these bring out a different side to children, a more mature side.  However, I’d forget that her brother was 10 until it was pointed out again because he just did not sound or act like a 10 year old.

It’s a very intriguing story.  As a history buff, I was very interested to know what was actually going on.  Why had I never heard of stuff like this happening to the Lithuanians before?  Why was their story so unknown?  Since I didn’t know what happened next, I was drawn in even more than normal.

An exceptional story.  I highly recommend this book, especially if you like reading books set in World War II.  Very touching.

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