Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys was an amazing book. I know I use the word amazing too often, but in this case it is fitting.

I had seen this book pop up on my goodreads recommendation list a few times but was hesitant because of the name. For some reason I thought it was related to another book with a similar name. Finally I read the blurb and was intrigued.

Between Shades of Gray is set in Siberia in 1941 in the midst of WWII. Lina is a 15 year old Lithuanian girl who is an aspiring artist. At the beginning of the book she getting ready for bed when the NKVD barge in to their house and tell her family they have 10 minutes to pack their belongings and get in to the truck waiting outside. Lina, her mother Elena and her younger brother Jonas rush to fill their suitcases wondering all the while where her father is and when they will see him again. Her father was Provost at a university in Lithuania but he is still taken by the Soviets and deported.

Along the way Lina, Elena, and Jonas meet various people who have a huge impact on their lives. After two months of being packed in to a train car with forty other people they arrive in Altai at a forced labor beet farm. When Elena refuses to cooperate with the NKVD her family is submitted to horrible living conditions, surviving on food rations of 300 grams of dried bread each day. They do what they have to do to survive, always with the hope that eventually they will be sent home and reunited with their father. Lina draws sketches with clues for her father along the way, passing them to others in hopes that he will eventually get them.

Between Shades of Gray is a very thought provoking book about the side of WWII that doesn't get mentioned as often. Everyone knows what Hitler did to Germany in his attempts to conquer the world but you don't hear as often about what Stalin did to build the U.S.S.R..

I give this book a 4 1/2 out of 5. While it isn't based on any particular persons true story, it could be the story of anyone from Eastern Europe during WWII.

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank - This is the heartbreaking true story written by a Jewish girl in Nazi Germany during WWII. It is quite possibly the most famous book about WWII, probably the most widely read.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry - This is a book for a younger set, it was the first book I can ever remember reading about WWII. I still think of this book frequently and reread it at least once a year. I am a huge fan of Lois Lowry.

The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson - This is a more light hearted tale from WWII. A girl is unable to escape from Vienna with her family but a family friend offers to help - by proposing to her a marriage of convienence. I enjoyed reading a WWII that actually ends in happiness even though I know most real stories from the war didn't end that way. I am a big fan of Eva Ibbotson's books.

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