Between Shades of Gray/Ruta Sepetys: Reflections

Friday, July 9, 2010

If I brought just one ARC home from the BEA—the glorious The Report (Jessica Francis Kane)—I was to have traveled home with two ARCs from the ALA convention.  The first, Caroline Leavitt's Pictures of You, did in fact make it into my bag.  The second, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, was delivered to me at the Egmont USA booth by a fashion-runway-worthy Jill Santopolo, only to be snatched by an eager reader when I oh-so-briefly turned my head.  I had to wait until yesterday, when another copy of the ARCs arrived by mail, to read this book that Jill had loved so much.  It had made her cry on the train, she said.  She had thought that I might like it.

She was right, as Jill so often is.  Between Shades of Gray is an important book—a story that captures the terrifying deportation of a Lithuanian family by the Soviet secret police.  Along with tens of thousands of others, 15-year-old Lina, her younger brother, and her educated, lovely mother are packed onto trains and sent toward the bitter cold of Siberia; their father, meanwhile, is sentenced to a prison-camp death. What will survival look like?  What will kindness look like?  Who is to be trusted?  The losses will be great; in an author's note, we learn that more than a third of all Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians were killed during Stalin's ruthless genocide.  Goodness, however, also prevails, for Lina is strong and she is faithful—losing and gaining, falling in love, making a record of the life she is living through drawings and words.

Simply and compellingly told, endowed with an honorable and serious purpose, Between Shades of Gray is the sort of book that wakens new knowledge in its readers.  Knowledge of a terrible time, absolutely.  Knowledge about the great capacity of the human heart:  that, too.  


Rebecca Herman said...

Between Shades of Gray sounds really good! I love historical fiction.

Beth F said...

Wow. This is a new to me title and it's going on my wish list. Thanks for the introduction.

Lilian Nattel said...

I read "Ivan's War" a few months ago--the more I read about that time, the bleaker I realize it was.

LisaSam said...

Hi Beth,
I am reading this now. I remembered it from your post. It is s wonderful and I cried, too.

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