Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


A tale of love, self-sacrifice, the basic human will to survive, sufferance and forgiveness, Between Shades of Gray is a remarkable, unforgettable story.

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.

This book was a wonderful story of human endurance through extreme and heartbreaking conditions.

Imagine your own family, at home having dinner, when a group of soldiers enters your home and takes you prisoner. You have no food or water or even a place to go to the bathroom. Death of those around you is a constant and real threat. Food is part of your every thought because hunger is gnawing at your belly. You can’t bathe. Lice, dysentery, scurvy and a number of other terrible diseases become everyday occurrences. Your alone, separated from family and friends. Your cold, freezing to the point that if you lay still you’ll freeze to death. Your abused and mocked and worked until you can’t walk to the wood plank floor that is now your bed.

It’s hard to imagine huh? But Lina and her family endure so much more. Through it all they keep their fight, their heart, their hope. Their fellow prisoners become family and each person contributes something to the survival of all. Lina’s mother is a constant source of strength for her children and all those around her. She’s kind, resourceful, respectful and forgiving. She’s somewhat a leader by example. Lina herself, is strong-willed, a fighter and risk taker. She and her brother grow up quickly, having to put all innocence behind them.

The author doesn’t shy away from the worst of Lina’s experiences. Murder, death and other terrible things are described and as bad as those things are, you get a sense of just how much worse it really must have been. You’ll have to have a heart of glass if you plan on not shedding a tear reading this one.

If you enjoyed reading The Book Thief or nonfiction such a Rena’s Story, you’ll enjoy this one just as much if not more.

View this book on Between Shades of Gray


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