Another book I’ve seen several times at Barnes & Noble, I finally decided it was worth buying for my nook. (By the way, can I just tell you that I love my nook? I NEVER in a million years thought I’d like having an ereader, and when the first Kindles came out, I stuck my nose up as high as any book-loving snob. However, it’s awesome because I can read Overdrive books on there that I check out from my library as well as all of the books I read from Netgalley. No complaints here! Also, I still buy a crap ton of physical books as evidenced by the four book currently on my dresser that I bought just this week and the 11 physical books on my nightstand.)
Okay. Back to the book. Ruta Sepetys’ novel Between Shades of Gray takes place in Lithuania during World War II. Add this to a list of things I didn’t know: there were MILLIONS of Lithuanians who were forcibly removed from the country during World War II, sent to work/labor camps, where many died (if they didn’t die along the way). This is a fictionalized version of Sepetys’ family history. Bright, talented Lina is sent to one of these work camps with her mother, brother, and many neighbors. Her father, she finds out, is in prison. They are educated and opinionated and have been disagreed with the government, and this places a mark on their heads. What follows is Lina’s journey from Lithuania to Siberia. Along the way, she finds love and experiences heartbreak that just devastated me.
I’m no history buff and I don’t know a lot — if anything! — about this part of World War II and the Holocaust, but I really found this to be a well-written, touching novel. The level of human suffering that was experienced made my heart ache, and I wanted to find Sepetys personally and give her a giant hug. I enjoyed the way this novel worked both in the present as well as a through flashbacks that lead up to Lina’s family’s deportation, although I have read other reviews that didn’t like that. The story itself was plotted well enough that I wasn’t distracted by the flashbacks; I actually looked forward to them because they’d help me shed the gap on the missing pieces. (And unlike books that use flashbacks for part of the story, like Sarah’s Key, another novel that deals with a little-known take on the Holocaust, these flashbacks worked.)
I think any adult with an interest in likeable characters and actual historical events would enjoy reading this book.
Overall rating: 8/10