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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Between Shades of Gray

Every once in a while a novel comes along that depicts the horrible actions that caused so much human suffering and leaves the reader wondering how this could have happened without anyone doing anything to protect the innocent people. Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys’s debut historical novel, does just that. The author did extensive research about her family’s country, Lithuania, when she found out that her family there had to keep secrets to protect themselves. The story begins with fifteen-year-old Lina narrating her family’s capture by Joseph Stalin’s Soviet police. She, her mother, and younger brother, Jonas, are abruptly taken to a railcar packed with other Lithuanians. Her father, a university professor, is taken to prison for betraying the government. So many terrible things happen to the people who are stuffed inside the railcar with little food and no means of cleaning themselves. Andrius, a seventeen-year-old boy, and his mother are also captured. Andrius understands the repercussions of their situation and goes above and beyond to protect Lina and Jonas. Once the railcar reaches its destination, the occupants are forced to work in the fields in harsh conditions with very little resources. The Lithuanian people faced starvation, poor hygiene, disease, and heartbreak…many did not survive. Andrius is the one person who gives Lina hope for the future. This story is reminiscent of stories we hear about the Holocaust, but many do not realize how the Lithuanians suffered during this time in history. My favorite part of this book was the way the author had Lina flashback to happier times and memories throughout the story. This is a powerful story that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it.

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