Between Shades of Gray is a wonderful historical fiction book. I found myself wanting to read more and more of it; however, due to the topic and setting of the book it is not an uplifting read. The story begins in 1941 in Lithuania; if you know your World War II history you know where I am going next. I have read a lot of World War II books, but I have never read an historical fiction book about Stalin and some of the evil things he did. I had never read anything about the people of the Baltics and the horrible things many of them had to endure. I say endure, b/c some of them had to endure these treatments for 10-15 years. I was not necessarily shocked, b/c I had read a little about Stalin, but I was saddened that people could treat others in such horrible ways. I often feel this way when I read any sort of book dealing with genocide. As I am sure many of you do.
The author has a website with more information, but I found a brief introduction to this book there. Here is the following introduction for Between Shades of Gray:
"In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they 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, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit."
I found Sepetys writing wonderful and would recommend this book to anyone. Though the subject is hard there isn't anything inappropriate in the book. The characters are strong and you come to care and love for them. You are happy with their little successes, like boys, and saddened by their hardships, like losing loved ones.
I loved that even though the people affected by Stalin were treated horribly, they held onto their memories. They held onto the love they have for their homeland. I appreciated the information in the epilogue and author's note. I appreciated the good people like Dr. Sumodurov who helped the helpless. I appreciated this book for the new insight it provided. I appreciated Sepetys writing a book like this; it is not a popular book topic to write about, but it is an important part of history we should never forget. I appreciate when authors truly write with a lot of heart and feeling; it shows. I am very happy that I had the opportunity to read this book.
The only thing I would change about the book is the ending. I wouldn't want to change the ending b/c I think Sepetys did a bad job writing it. I think she wrote it perfectly. I want to change the ending b/c I want to know what happened to everyone. I want to know that they all had their "happily ever after." However, I know that many Lithuanians did not have a happily ever after; I just wish they all could've after having to deal with such hardships. I like "happily ever afters."
Check this book out from the library. It is fabulous! Don't expect it to give you a warm cuddly feeling inside, but do expect it to have an impact on you.
As always, let me know your thoughts.