Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel
Publication Date: March 2011
Categories: Historical Fiction, Social Issues


Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously-and at great risk-documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture 

your heart.

My Thoughts:

This book is about one of the hidden aspects of world history. We all know about the atrocities committed against the Jewish population during this time. What many of us may not know is that awful things were also happening to the populations of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia. (Finland also fell into that category during this time)

This fictional account of those years is told in spare and heartbreaking prose. One of the reasons I love to read is for the escapism. This book allowed me to escape into the truth. The truth isn’t always beautiful. This book is.

Memorable Quotes:

“There were only two possible outcomes in Siberia.  Success meant survival. Failure meant death.  I wanted life.  I wanted to survive.”

“This testimony was written to create an absolute record, to speak in a world where our voices have been extinguished. These writing may shock or horrify you, but that is not my intention. It is my greatest hope that the pages in this jar stir your deepest well of human compassion. I hope they prompt you to do something, to tell someone. Only then can we ensure that this kind of evil is never allowed to repeat itself.” 

I do hope you’ll watch the video above. It’s quite lovely.

Are you the blogger that suggested this book to me? If so, I apologize! I can’t remember where I first heard about this. I’m working on a system so that this doesn’t happen again. If you’ve reviewed this book I’d appreciate you commenting your link below!

Have you read this? Do you plan on it?

9/26/12~ I found the blogger who inspired me to read this! Thanks to Beth from A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust!

2 thoughts on “Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

  1. This sounds like a great but troubling book. Back in January I read and put up commentary on \”Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin\” by Timothy Snyder. It tales the tale of the unimaginable mass killings that occurred in Eastern Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. this truly was one of the worst places to be at any time or place in human history.


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