Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys


“They took me in my nightgown.” So begins teenage Lina’s horrific journey from her beloved home in Lithuania to the icy land of Siberia, when she and her family are deported by the Soviets who have annexed her country and are systematically ridding it of anyone they consider “anti-Soviet.” Lina, her mother and brother are separated from her father and packed into cattle cars that travel ever farther North to hardscrabble beet and potato farms where deportees are literally worked to death. There are many times along the way that Lina wants to give up. Like when a fellow traveler is shot in the head and dumped from the train for mourning her lost child. Or when her younger brother gets scurvy from months of starvation rations. But through it all, Lina’s beautiful mother Elena keeps the family’s spirits up by constantly telling them that not only will their imprisonment soon end, but they will find their father and all live together again in their own house. Lina just tries to make it through each long hungry day, only made bearable by her mother’s hope, her ability to lose herself by drawing, and her crush on Andrius, a fellow prisoner. Then, another blow. Lina and her family are being sent North again, this time to Siberia where the sun doesn’t rise for six months and the cold can kill. Lina’s despair is complete. How can she keep believing in her mother’s words when she is surrounded on all sides by darkness and death? In Between Shades of Gray, author Ruta Sepetys, herself the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee, brings to light a little known period of history that many Americans are unfamiliar with: the systematic deportation of doctors, lawyers, teachers, artists, business owners, or anyone considered “counter-revolutionary” from the Baltic States of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia during dictator Josef Stalin’s reign (1922-1953). In her author’s note at the back of the novel, Sepetys states, “It is estimated that Josef Stalin killed more than twenty million people during his reign of terror. The Baltic States…lost more than a third of their population during the Soviet genocide…to this day, many Russians deny they ever deported a single person.” Sepetys’ unflinching portrayal of the work camps and the bravery of the people who survived them will tug at your heart and hurt your head. And I’m not the only one both devastated and uplifted by Lina’s story. Check out these other reviews of Between Shades of Gray, then head to your nearest library, bookstore or ereader to experience the heartbreak for yourself. 4 weepies.

7 thoughts on “Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

  1. this book is great so far and i love it. i just have a book report due tommorow and havent finished the book so i am screwed so i wanted to know what happened to linas mother and father i think the mother died and the father is still missing or he died too but i am confused because i still have half of the book to read so i really cant read the rest and i dont have the time so please help me!!!!!!!!!!!!! :(:P

  2. This book is great but i never actually finished it so this website helps because I have a character monologue due on monday 27 jun so thank you to whoever made this website!

  3. I devoured this book in the last couple of days. The narrative was so well realized and the characters so lovely I kind of didn’t want to put it down, ever.
    Lina’s story is so tragic yet hopeful at the same time that I couldn’t help but recommend it to the first person I saw after finishing it. I was especially blown away by the fact the author manages to not let the story get completely dark and depressing like many stories set in the same time period and still illuminate what was important to the survivors of the Siberian camps as well as make this book so accessible despite being about a part of history so many people don’t even know about.
    One of my favorite books of the year, for sure, and probably one of my favorites all time. Thanks for the review.

  4. This is the most beautiful book i have ever read, i love it and it is the most stunning and heart felt book i have read in my life <3

  5. My all grandparents were sent to Siberia. They all came back to Lithuania after death of Stalin. My father is born in Siberia and my grandparents took him back to Lithuania – he was one year old at the time. My mother is born in Lithuania. They came back and had nothing – no home no land, they were threated as criminals, but they were happy – they came back to thier homeland…The book tells the same story as my grandparents had. The reasons for exile was that my grandfather was rich farmer, the other grandfather worked in post office. I think all people should know the truth about war. I cried while reading this book… I miss my grandfather he died last year.

  6. I checked the book out and kind of put off reading it, thinking it would be boring or something. I was so wrong! This book was incredibly heartfelt and well researched, something you always look for in historical fiction. I was crying, I was laughing, I was nervous. I think I took every position possible while reading this book: laying on my back on the bed, on my knees leaning on the bed, sitting crosslegged on the floor. It was so engrossing. Read it!

  7. This is an excellent book. I got it at my school book fair after hearing a few people talk about the author. When I picked it up and read the description, I realized it was for me. I find history fascinating and Soviet history even more fascinating. It is a realistic account of what happened to the Lithuanian people, so it is sad at times. It is beautifully written. I am not usually into reading, but this was an exception. The story line, writing, actuality, and pure interest caused me to read this book in only a few days (versus my typical one month track time). I would recomend this to all of my friends. In fact, today I literally lent my copy to my friend today. This story’s writing is amazing. Great story. Great author. End of story.

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