Sunday, February 17, 2013

Between Shades of Gray

Book: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Rating: PG14 for mature subject content and some sexual content

Summery via Goodreads:
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.

This book left me with an array of different feelings. Feelings of awe, of shock, of sadness followed me for days. I was so moved by many factors of this book. As a big fan of World War II historical fiction, I really enjoyed reading this untold side of the war. Both the Soviets and the treatment of Catholics during WWII are rather untouched subjects in the historical fiction world. This book contained both topics and I really enjoyed that.

Between Shades of Gray contained so many different themes that completely changed the way I look at some things. One of favorite themes is this-- is it better to be the one leaving or the one left behind?

The question is proposed by my least favorite character, but it is nonetheless a good question to think about. Because we are in the process of moving, this thought has entered my mind more than once. Is it better to be the one leaving? The one going to a new school, a new town, knowing no one? Is it really better to be the one who leaves everyone s/he knows behind? Or is it better to be the one left behind? The one who continues to live his/her usually life, only with a piece taken out of it? Is it better to be the one who has gone to heaven and left loved ones behind? Or the one who is still making his or her way through life on earth?

I'm not quite sure what I think about that. I feel like it's probably worse to be the one left behind, as hard as it is to be the one moving on. I think we've all had the feeling of being left behind, whether we were left behind by a friend who was not loyal, a loved one who has passed on, or a friend who has had to move. But on the other hand, sometimes I feel terrified of living in a new place without everyone who has been so dear to me my whole life.

So, though I haven't been through nearly as many horrors as Lina has, I understand a bit of what she was going through. Ah, sometimes I feel like I can relate more to characters than actual people!

I'd love to hear your thoughts=)


  1. Oh, I felt like this book broke my heart--it was SO hard to read, but definitely worth it. I love books that make me think, and this one raised so many interesting philosophical questions--it's interesting hearing your take on the one you mentioned.
    I wonder if there is an answer...because the separation hurts so much either way (except, of course, in the instance of death--then, it's pretty one-sided, I guess, since the one in heaven isn't as totally separated).
    Don't you wish sometimes you could know more real people the way we can know characters? I think reading fiction helps me understand real people (including myself) so much better.

    1. I totally agree with you. I wish that I could get to know people (and they could get to know me) as well as you do characters in a book. I feel like that would make the world a much better place. And yes, the book was so heart breaking! It was very painful to read, but it really touched my soul.