Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Published: 2011 by Speak (an Imprint of Penguin Group USA)
It is so unfortunate that this book has been overshadowed by that other book with Shades of Gray in the title. I admit to not reading the other book (nor do I ever expect to, frankly) but I am aware enough of its subject matter to know that the similarities in titles are the only thing the two books share. And I know I shouldn’t judge a book without reading it but I am confident in saying that Between Shades of Gray is the far better novel.
Between Shades of Gray is the story of Lina, a young Lithuanian girl who loves to draw and who has been accepted into a prestigious art school. Unfortunately, the events of World War II arrive at her doorstep and after her father is arrested by the Soviet Army and taken away, Lina, her mother, and younger brother Jonas, are also forced to leave their home and begin a long journey to work/prison camps in Siberia. Though the conditions both en route and at the camps are horrible, Lina’s family makes every effort to stay together and to stay positive with the hope that they will make contact with their husband and father. Lina keeps up with her drawing, and through a network in the camp that extended outside of it, she sends her work out in the hopes that it will reach her father. Her drawings also have other significance, which I will leave for you to discover on your own.
The story itself is difficult to read, but I found it fascinating, as I was not aware of such oppression of Lithuanians, though I can’t say I’m surprised the Soviet Union did it (I’m reading a non-fiction book now about Soviet influence in Eastern Europe after WWII, called Iron Curtain , and they were brutal in every way). The author also does write very well, and managed to create vivid images with her words that I found pretty despite the bleak story presented.
I can’t and won’t tell you not to read that other Shades of Gray book, but you should also make a point of reading this one.