Monday, February 27, 2012

Review of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray
By Ruta Sepetys

5 Scribbles
It is 38 degrees below zero in Trofimovsk, Russia today. Imagine that you were taken there at gunpoint without time to prepare, with only the clothes on your back, maybe a coat and mittens if you’re lucky. Now imagine that you have only what you can find for food and shelter in order to survive the Arctic winter. Would you live to tell about it?

Stalin, the leader of Russia from 1941 to 1953, decided to take over 3 countries, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia and to be rid of anyone there who he thought might be a threat to his rule. (At the same time Hitler was on his campaign to erase the Jewish people.) Stalin banished all sorts of the educated—teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists, librarians—and those accused of being against Stalin—people who helped others escape , relatives of military workers, even children—to prison camps. Many of these camps were in Siberia. All of the camps were brutal places to be and almost assured the death of the prisoner. Lina is 15 when she is deported to Siberia with her mother and brother. Her courage in the face of such unbelievable danger and cruelty are what draws the reader into the story, and the descriptions of Lina’s artwork (accompanied by her love of the artist Munch) come to life through the author’s vivid descriptions. It isn’t hard to have empathy for Lina’s anger at the prison guards, to mourn for Lina’s helpless brother who becomes an old man before he is a teenager, and to adore her angelic mother who tries so very hard to make their suffering bearable and to see the good in others. All of the characters in the novel, even minor characters, become an extension of ourselves when we read, they become our family and we root for their survival while we dread the worst. And while the story is brutal, through the gift of her writing, the author shows us that in even the most despairing of conditions people can exhibit mercy and kindness. Short, powerful chapters with settings that make the reader’s teeth chatter reveal a part of history that previously existed only in whispers; I, for one, am pleased that Sepetys is now raising her voice into a shout so that all may know and learn about these atrocities.

This informative video explains how the author researched & wrote this story. The book becomes even richer once you've viewed this short video.

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