Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Between Shades of Gray - Review
Author: Ruta Sepetys
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.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages 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, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives.Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.
This book has been on my mind since I finished it last week. It is haunting, thought provoking, beautiful yet horrific. A story of love and hope and death and sorrow and suffering. I was tearing up at page 4o, by page 47 I was flat out crying. I wish that a certain series with a similar title wasn't out, and causing potential readers to skip this book, thinking it is related, because this book is definitely worth reading and ten million times better than the similar named book, which is a completely different subject anyway.
Reading this book reminded me of reading Anne Frank. Lina dreamed of a better life while living in the worst conditions possible, and kept a journal of drawings of the life she was living, depicting the squalor, starvation, and soldiers who hated them. If these drawings had been found, she very likely would have been killed. Lina was a fighter, a survivor, and the least sentimental of her family in some ways. Her mother and brother Jonas were better able to share and be compassionate for others in the camp; Lina cared only for her family, most of the time. I don't judge her for this, for no one knows how they would react in such a situation. I would like to think that I would be able to go without so that someone else could have my share, but I think when it came down to it, honestly, I would be family first.
Amidst the camps and freezing weather, total lack of food and shelter, and all the illnesses and disease that abounded, the people in the camps still had hopes, dreams, and love. One of the most tear jerking scenes for me was Christmas in the first camp. Lina and her family and all the other residents of the camp celebrated together, each bringing the small amount they were able to steal and share, and all brought photos of their family that they were separated from. Their lives are desperate, meager and filled with constant fear, and yet they were able to put that aside as much as they could, to come together in fellowship, community and camaraderie.
Lina encounters many different people while imprisoned - selfish, generous, self-sacrificing, brutal, violent. But others are not always as they seem - some are not just black or white, but somewhere in between, shades of gray.
This book broke my heart in places, but overall, the ending was one of hope. The human spirit is resilient, and life goes on, even when you think it can't.