Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Between Shades of Gray

I've read many novels about WWII, but never anything about Lithuania. Sadly, until  now, the only thing I knew about Lithuania was that the Grateful Dead sponsored their Olympic basketball team (ignorance isn't pretty). Between Shades of Gray taught me a lot.

Author Ruta Sepetys details the experiences of fifteen-year-old Lina and her family during the Soviet invasion of Lithuania. Separated from her father, they are rounded up into cattle cars and transported to Siberia to work in camps reminiscent of Nazi concentration camps. They are treated brutally, starved, and expected to toil to death. It is tragic that this history is not more well known.

Sepetys' writing is beautiful--simple enough for young readers to understand, with descriptions that pull you in. Through Lina's eyes, I saw the Lithuanian countryside through a gap in the cattle car, watched loved ones slowly becoming gaunt, and felt the fear of snow piling up outside of an inadequate shelter. Lina is a talented artist, and her attempts to document her experiences and get her drawings to her father were especially touching.

One of my biggest takeaways from this novel is how amazing mothers are. A common occurrence in harrowing books is the mother sacrificing her needs for her children: giving them her food rations, feigning calmness so that they are not scared, risking her life for them. Lina's mother is my favorite character for all the small moments of grace she provides. As soon as I finished Between Shades of Gray, I called my mom and gave her some love.

Please read this amazing book; you will love it.


  1. I love what you said about mothers. Lina's mother was one the most incredible characters I've ever read - as you so aptly put it, she was full of small (and bigger) moments of grace. This book is AMAZING.
    PS: Really, really, really excited for you to read The Fault in Our Stars!!!!

  2. I felt the same way when I read this book last year, and I remember seeing many others mention about being unaware of the specific context of the book. As you said, ignorance isn't pretty, but isn't it great that through this book so many people are learning about it? I liked your observation about mothers in the book.


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