Between Shades of Gray
By Ruta Sepetys
Philomel Books, 2011. 344 pgs. Young Adult
Lina’s life of privilege in 1941 Lithuania comes to an end one night when Stalin’s police deport her, her mother, and her younger brother and ship them east into the Soviet Union. Lina doesn’t understand why her family has been deported and wonders what has happened to her father, who has disappeared. Conditions are horrific from the beginning for Lina and the other deportees; there is not enough food (let alone nutritional food) they are not allowed off the train for days, and deportees are shot on the spot for not immediately complying with the police. Lina vows to stay alive and her mother’s hopeful attitude and Lina’s drawings give her strength.
It’s amazing how the plight of Lithuanians, Finns, Estonians, and others at the hands of Stalin were partly ignored by the world because it occurred during Hitler’s reign and WWII. This book presents an absorbing read about these deportees and how they retained a sense of dignity throughout their long ordeal. Lina evolves naturally as one would do in such hardship and the supporting characters are fleshed out as well. It’s amazing how I wanted to keep reading it even though conditions always became worse for Lina.