Posted by: Genny Colby | June 3, 2012

Book Review-Between Shades of Gray By Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray

by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray

The story starts out in 1941 Lithuania, where we meet Lina.  A 15-year-old girl whose biggest worries are about boys and if she will be accepted into a special art program.  Then the world changes in an instant when she and her family are taken from their home in the middle of the night by Russian soldiers.  Separated from her father, Lina, her mother, and younger brother find themselves stuffed into train cars (and not the nice passenger cars she is used to) with others taken from their homes.  The train takes them to an isolated village where they are forced to work under Stalin’s orders, accused of being traitors and criminals under. They are eventually taken further north, crossing the Arctic Circle, where they are forced to work and to try to survive in the coldest, harshest parts of Siberia.

Lina is a headstrong young woman who must find a way to not only survive, but also help her brother and mother survive.  She must learn who to trust, when to hold her tongue, and how to express her deepest thoughts and feelings without getting caught.  Through her art and her writings, Lina is able to express these ideas, experiences, and fears, but always at the risk of being caught.  Along the way Lina learns not only about herself, her own strengths, but how and when to trust others, how to keep having faith, and most importantly, how to survive.

This is a powerful book.  In all my years of schooling, I don’t remember any discussion about Stalin’s actions in Lithuania, Latvia, the Ukraine, and other states in this region during WWII.  It seems that this part of our history has been forgotten.  Some of this may be due to the fact that those who did survive, returned to their home countries after many long years in forced labor, afraid of speaking about the terrible events that occurred, for fear of further punishment.  Many lost not only their family and friends, but their possessions and identities as Russian soldiers took  all of these during the occupation.  Those that did survive were simply happy to return to a “normal” life.  It is not that they forgot, but rather the need to survive was so strong it trumps everything else.

This a wonderfully written book, where the story simply flows off the pages.   While the story is difficult, the author has created such characters that you begin to care about them, you want to know how/if they survive.  The descriptions are detailed enough that the reader can see the setting, but not so detailed that it takes away from the story, or distracts the reader.  It is book that I think all should read, remember, and strive to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.



  1. […] I also picked up Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.  I don’t much about this book, but I so enjoyed her first book that I am excited to see what other stories she has created.  You can read my review of her first book here. […]

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