Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Publishing Date: April 2012
Genre: young adult, historical fiction
It’s 1941 and fifteen-year-old artist Lina Vilkas is on Stalin’s extermination list. Deported to a prison camp in Siberia, Lina fights for her life, fearless, risking everything to save her family. It’s a long and harrowing journey and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
How do I write a book review when I’m utterly speechless? How can I persuade a stranger to take a look at a book that has left me reeling, questioning, loving, weeping, aching? I am utterly silent, and this book speaks volumes.
What is there to say about a work of fiction based on historical fact, kept hushed through history? What is there to say when this fictional piece is a conglomeration of true stories?
You must read this. If the summary does not persuade you, if my inability to come up with the right words does not persuade you, if the quotes and excerpts below do not piqué your curiosity, then surely this video will push you.
Everyone needs to know about this book. Everyone needs to know their history.
Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.
The door to the shack blew open. The NKVD pushed inside, pointing guns at us.
“Davai!” yelled a gaurd, grabbing the man who wound his watch. People began to protest.
“Please, it’s Christmas Eve,” pleaded Mother. “Don’t try to make us sign on Christmas Eve.”
The guards yelled and began pushing people out of the shack. I wasn’t leaving without Papa. I scrambled over to the other side of the table. I grabbed our family photo and stuffed it up my dress. I would hide it on the way to the kolkhoz office. [The NKVD guard] Kretzsky didn’t notice. He stood motionless, holding his rifle, staring at all the photographs.
How much food was there in America that a ship could drop such an enormous supply for fewer than twenty guards? And now the Americans had sailed away. Did they know the Soviets’ gruesome secret? Were they turning the other cheek?
“To the Soviets, there is no more Lithuania, Latvia, or Estonia. Stalin must completely get rid of us to see his vision unlittered.”
Litter. Is that what we were to Stalin?
When I imagined sketching the commander, I had no problem, until I got to his head. My mind saw a clean and pressed uniform, with a nest of wicked snakes sprouting out of his neck, or a skull with hollow black eyes, smoking a cigarette. …I needed to draw them. But I couldn’t, not in front of the commander.
Andrius turned. His eyes found mine. “I’ll see you,” he said.
My face didn’t wrinkle. I didn’t utter a sound. But for the first time in months, I cried.