I started hearing the buzz about Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys from may friends in the Nerdy Book Club. Everyone raved about this powerful story set in a little known part of World War II that took place behind the Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union. Now that I’ve finally read it door myself, I see what all the fuss was about. This book gripped my heart and imagination and wouldn’t let go eve days after I’ve turned the last page.
Lina is one of the bravest characters I’ve ever met. When the Soviet police knock on her family’s door in the middle of the night, she forgets to change out of her nightgown but makes sure she packs her sketch pad and pencils. As she and her mother and brother are herded onto cattle cars for a frightening journey to an unknown destination, Lina experiences horror upon horror. Despite the lack of food, water and eve fresh air, Lina is determined to survive. She is also determined to get word of their location to her father, who was taken on another train of all men. They eventually arrive, unwelcome, to a hard labor camp in Siberia. Many do not survive. Through it all, Lina draws what she sees. Like her favorite artist, Edward Munch, she sees as much with her heart as she does with her eyes. She must hide her drawings because the Soviet soldiers who run the camp would kill her to keep the truth hidden.
I have read many stories from the Nazi Holocaust during World War II, but I had no idea a similar tragedy was happening in the countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. It has only been since these three nations have regained their independence that their people have been able to share their stories with the world. You will want to read this book and meet Lina for yourself.