Between Shades of Gray (by Ruta Sepetys)

18 09 2011

Ruta Sepetys writes prose straight from the heart when she describes Lina’s story of deportation from Lithuania to Siberia in 1941 in her debut novel Between Shades of Gray. This is a story about people and even entire countries that disappeared off of the world map after Stalin’s rise to power in the former USSR. It’s also a story that not that many people will be familiar with. The fact that the Holocaust occurred almost simultaneously made that events and stories as cruel and powerful as e.g. the story of Schindler’s List or The Diary of Anne Frank, kind of got lost. The survivors of Stalin’s version of the Holocaust, moreover, also stayed afraid to come forward long after they were allowed to return to their native countries – something Ruta Sepetys  aptly describes at the end of her book.

It would take a brute not to be moved by Lina’s story. It would take a monster not to be affected by the often vividly depicted cruelties that Ruta Sepetys describes. What transpires most, though, is the strength that lies in the hope and determination of the people that Sepetys describes. Between Shades of Gray is heartfelt historical storytelling. It’s a page turner as well as a historical lesson in willpower, human endurance and the need to remember.

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