Monday, September 12, 2011

Between Shades of Gray

I have been reading for three days now and my desk is a mess!.  After reading Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys  I feel lucky to even have a desk.  As Hitler prepared to invade Russia, Stalin  forced millions of Eastern Europeans, including 15-year-old Lina, her younger brother and their mother, out of their homes and into labor camps in Siberia.

Their "relocation" lasted for the most of their lives.  And many of those lives lasted only a few days, or weeks or months after these people were loaded like cargo into box cars.

 In the boxcar with Lina and her family, there were teachers, a librarian, a veterinarian, a stamp collector.  They were all "criminals"; some merely because they were educated.  Others were accused because they had business dealings outside of Lithuania.  Lina's family committed the crime of helping family members leave Lithuania.

This story of survival is unrelentingly bleak.  There are touches of lighter gray when strangers are kind; a Russian soldier, a native woman forced to share her home with these foreigners.  Lina's mother is always a lady and always kind, while Lina rails bitterly against their fate.  And then, Lina finds herself responsible for keeping her younger brother alive against cold and starvation and cruelty.

This novel opened my eyes to a holocaust story of a different kind.  Hitler killed over 6 million people in death camps.  Stalin was responsible for the deaths of 20 million people whose biggest crimes were that they were not Russian and they did not worship Stalin.

Through the entire book I hoped that Lina's story would have a happy ending.  Some ray of sunshine would cut across the cold and ice and pain of the steppes.  And then the book ended.  What is happiness, after all?

Anyone who reads this book will appreciate freedom, food, paper, soap, blankets - just about anything because these detainees had only what they brought with them.  Please let me know what you thought of the ending.  I want to hear what you think of this very realistic resolution. 

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