“Recommended by…” is a monthly feature in which an awesome bookish person recommends a book that I just have to read. It’s posted in two parts. Part one is the intro to the recommender and the recommendation. Part two posts later in the month and recaps my thoughts on the book.
I can’t decide if I want to thank Tara for recommending Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys or not. I was blown away by the book but do kind of blame her for me tearing up at work and having to explain myself to the students working in the LMC at the time! ***Sigh*** it was worth it!
You can find Tara online here:
Blog – http://www.fictionfolio.com/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/TaraMQ
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously–and at great risk–documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.
Oy. I don’t even know where to start with this one. First, I have to just say how incredible I think Between Shade of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is. My inability to organize my thoughts has everything to do with how amazing the book is and how much it got to me.
When I think of all the books, fiction and nonfiction, that I’ve read set during WWII the majority deal with Germany, Hitler, and the Holocaust. Next would come books from the perspective of (or about) American servicemen. Throw in Code Talkers about the Navajo Marines for a tiny bit of diversity. And then, because it’s a topic I’m interested it, I’ve read a few focused on Japanese-Americans during and after the Japanese Internment. And of course there’s Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes about a girl who gets sick from exposure to radiation from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Never have I ever read a book focused on the Soviet aspect of WWII and certainly not anything to do with Lithuania. As I was reading Between Shades of Gray this infuriated me. How had I not known this? Did we learn about it in high school and I just forgot? I don’t think so. Either way, how had I, someone who made an effort to read books set in this period, not learned about this? It’s certainly something I’ll be researching now.
Ruta Sepetys does an amazing job drawing the reader into the harrowing story of Lina’s forced relocation and fight for survival. Of course it’s not just Lina’s story. It’s the story of her family, her neighbors, her people. They go through horrible, awful inexcusable experiences at the hands of other people. I found myself putting my hand to my mouth in shock over and over. But what really got to me? The kindness. The many seemingly tiny ways the survivors helped on another. The way people with nothing left to give continued to give all they could. The way the clung to memories and hope to keep going. The way they retained their dignity and humanity when those in power over them did not. It was simply incredible and too beautiful for words.
I honestly don’t know that I can talk about Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys in any intelligent manor. It’s a book I’ll be processing for some time. One of those heartbreaking yet hopeful stories you never forget. Okay, I guess I do thank Tara for the recommendation!
I started by listening to this one on audiobook. It just didn’t work for me. There wasn’t anything wrong with it per se. It just didn’t click for me. I could just tell that I’d connect with the story more reading it than listening to it. Also, there are times in the story where Lina flashes to a memory of her life before being taken. In the book this text is in italics. The audiobook doesn’t differentiate in any way. It was really confusing the first couple times it happened and mildly confusing after that. The narrator wasn’t bad or anything like that. Just not for me!