Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is hauntingly krasivaya (Russian for beautiful). I think the Washington Post describes it best, “Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both.”
Between Shades of Gray is set in Lithuania, June 1941 and tells the story of fifteen-year-old Lina, her younger brother Jonas, and her mother Elena’s imprisonment by the Soviet secret police. Lina, her family, and other Lithuanians branded “anti-Soviet” are forced into a cattle car destined for Siberia. (Lina’s father Kostas is also en-route to a prison camp). Throughout their horrific journey, Lina draws pictures and secretly sends them along in hopes that her father will find and ultimately save them. This is a story about Lina’s survival – she persevered by remembering the sunshine between the shades of gray.
At the novel’s end, Sepetys notes that one third of the Lithuanian, Estonian, and Latvian population died during Josef Stalin’s regime. The Soviets controlled these countries until 1991.
“Even the hardest of winters fears the spring.”- Lithuanian Proverb