Between Shades of Gray
By Ruta Sepetys
Completed December 29, 2010
In her debut novel, Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys explores the Lithuanian deportation by the Soviets in the early 1940’s. Certain citizens of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland were swept up and arrested during World War II. The women and children were sent to labor camps in Siberia, and it’s this journey that is told through the eyes of Lina, the 15-year-old Lithuanian girl who narrates this story.
Between Shades of Gray is written for a young adult audience, but I think readers of all ages could read and learn from this story. Lina is a talented young artist, and her visual depictions on what she experiences leaves nothing for the imagination. Despite the plainness of the language (again, intended for younger readers), the reader gets a bird’s eye view of the torture, cold, labor and death that surrounded Lina’s camp life.
World War II history can be tricky. When we think of genocide during this period, we understandably think of the Holocaust. As someone who frequently reads about this historical period, I am often surprised at the complex layers of this war. You peel away one layer, and something new emerges. In this case, the new thing was the genocide of the Lithuanian people and neighboring countries. Knowing that these atrocities continued in the Soviet Union well after the war makes Lina’s story that much more important to know.
I received Between Shades of Gray as an ARC through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program. The galley came with a video – a beautiful tribute by the author to her family and Lithuanian survivors of the Siberian camps. Please check it out:
If you have an interest in tales of human survival or learning from our past, I would recommend Between Shades of Gray to you. I think Sepetys’ writing style will appeal to young readers – and her story will appeal to many more. ( )