This week's book is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys...and no, this book has absolutely no relation to the 50 Shades of Grey books.
The story follows a fifteen year old Lithuanian girl at the start of WWII. Stalin reigns in the Soviet Union and he has taken over Lithuania. All of the people that they believe are anti-Soviet have been rounded up and are being sent to work camps in Siberia. The conditions are cruel, the work is hard and there is little to no food. But the heart of the people remains strong and their strength is what gets them through.
At the end of the book, I was initially in shock. I couldn't understand why I had never heard of this happening. It wasn't taught in my high school or college history classes. Then, after reading the author's note at the end, I understood. The people that were rounded up were considered criminals. So when they were finally released and allowed to go back "home", they were treated as such. Their homes were no longer theirs...Soviets had taken them over. In some instances, the Soviets had even taken over their identities. Lithuania and the Baltics were still Soviet run and so they weren't even allowed to discuss what they had endured. If they did, they could be sent back for Anti-Soviet statements. It wasn't until the 1990's that the Baltic Nations were finally freed from Soviet rule. Not until then had anyone even known what had been done to the citizens of the Baltic Nations at the hands of Stalin.
I cried and held the book to my chest when I was done. I have no doubt I will read this again someday and I hope I can get my kids to read it too. It truly is an amazing story of strength and survival.
Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life—until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?
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