Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Young Adult, Historical
Read By: Emily Klein
Length: 7 hours and 47 minutes
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.
Ruta Sepetys, you got me again! If I ever get the chance to meet you in person, I’m going to give you the most heartfelt hug I have ever given as a thank you for bringing little known historical events to my attention and writing such amazing books. Reading historical fiction, especially about tragic events, always gives me so many feels. You, Ruta, have the magical touch though, and really make the stories come alive in the most heartbreaking and realistic ways. First Salt to the Sea, and now this. You are a hero.
Onto the book! As someone with some Lithuanian heritage, I’m pretty ashamed to admit that this was a subject I knew very little about. While I understand that this is still fiction, it’s rooted in truth and opened my eyes to events that I wasn’t even aware of, which I love. It’s awesome when I learn about new things, and the characters that Ruta created to help bring awareness to these events were fantastic. They were memorable and easy to connect to, which helped bring the story to life and allow me to get emotionally attached (which was a good and bad thing – heh). For the majority of this book, I felt like my heart was in a vice, and I just could not pull myself away.
This book got me thinking a lot about tragedy in general. First Thought: I find it so mesmerizing that often times, tragedy brings people together. People can put aside differences and get to the core of being a human being, being kind, and helping one another. People make sacrifices for complete strangers, and it’s beautiful. Second Thought: It is inspiring that people survived events like the ones described in this book. To be perfectly honestly, while I wish I could say without a doubt that I’d be hardcore enough and strong enough to survive, I’m just not sure that I could. While it’s heartbreaking to hear the tales of the survivors of these tragic events, it’s also hard to find anything quite as inspiring.
Overall, clearly enjoyed this one a ton, and will definitely be picking up the one remaining Ruta Sepetys book that I haven’t read yet, as well as keeping my eyes open for anything else she might put out in the future!
Note: The end of the audiobook version of this had a segment of Ruta Sepetys talking through her inspiration for this book, and it was amazing! It made me appreciate the book even more than I already did.
Is Ruta Sepetys a Queen, or what?