Monday, January 27, 2014

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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Rating: ****
Genre: Historical fiction
Pages: 343
Series: Stand alone
Before the war, Lina Vilkas dreamed of art school and cute boys. Now she just wants to survive. When the Soviets come for them in the middle of the night, Lina's ripped from her home with little more than her mother, brother, and beloved sketchbook. They're packed into cattle cars and shipped to Siberia.
 In the concentration camp she learns to live off smuggled beets, rotten potatoes, and hope.
So what is this, you ask? Another grim, tragic tale of the Jewish holocaust? Nope. Lina's a Lithuanian Christian deported to Siberia because her dad helped a family cross the border into Germany. For that, the entire Vilkas family gets twenty five years of hard labor in the middle of nowhere.
I think we've all read a concentration book or two. We know about the six million Jews who died in gas chambers. But the Lithuanian side of the story is rarely told. Before this book, I had no idea it happened. That's where most of the suspense lies. When Lina's family is uprooted from their Siberian labor camp you have no idea where they're going. Hint: it's the one place on Earth more bleak and miserable than Siberia.
This isn't a cheery book and at times it's hard to get into Lina's head. She's not one of those characters with such a powerful voice that you feel like you've crawled inside her body and stepped into her world. At times I had to look up from the book and think, "Now how would I feel in this situation?" rather than just letting her emotions seep in. But the writing is so beautiful in places like this-
I clung to my rusted dreams during the times of silence. It was at gunpoint that I fell into every hope and allowed myself to wish from the deepest part of my heart. Komorov thought he was torturing us. But we were escaping into a stillness within ourselves. We found strength there. 
-so I'll overlook that.
Like I said, Between Shades of Gray isn't a cheery book. It's a thinking book. It's the story of people making the most out of their misfortune and sacrificing themselves to help each other. Scenes and characters will stay in my mind for a long time, I'm sure.

Also, please note that this is not the same book as that sexed up lemon fic that somehow managed to sleep its way to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Between Shades of Grey just has the misfortune of sharing a similar title. This video should help clear up any confusion. 

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