Wednesday, July 20, 2011



Between Shades of Gray is Incredible from start to finish. Ruta Sepetys has written a remarkable story that needed to be told, and she does it beautifully.

Under Josef Stalin, the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in 1939. The Kremlin created lists of people they were suspicious of being "anti-Soviet". Teachers, writers, artists, lawyers, doctors, etc. were placed on these lists and rounded up and murdered, sent to prison or deported into slavery in Siberia. The first deportations took place in 1941.

Lina and her family were on the list. Without warning, the police barge into her home one night and give her family a matter of minutes to pack up their lives. Her father had already been taken away previously. Herded into cattle cars with other terrified people from all walks of life, Lina, her younger brother Jonas and their mother Elena are quickly put into survival mode. The thought of keeping their family together and reuniting with their father is what forces them to stay strong, but the challenges they have to endure will test them, tear them down and change them profoundly.

The characters in this book are so vividly portrayed, which only makes the story that much more moving. I really think this is an amazing book. We've all heard a lot about the horrors and atrocities of the Nazis during WWII, but little in comparison about what happened to the Baltic states during Stalin's reign of terror. This book is intended for young readers, but I think adults will enjoy it and learn from it as well.


TheBookGirl said...

That is quite an accomplishment for an author to write a book about such a difficult subject that would appeal to both adults and younger readers. I'll have to check this one out.

Jon Hartling said...

Since Stalin was (by default) our ally in WW II, we have tended over the course of time to overlook his atrocities; but the truth is that Stalin killed far more Russians than Hitler killed Germans. I'm always impressed if an author can present prison camps and genocide in a way that is authentic and yet not overwhelming for younger readers, since we are talking about the very darkest aspects of the human condition.