Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys

Between Shades of Gray
Title: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruth Sepetys
Publication Date: 3/22/11
Pages: 344
How I Found It: Not sure
Date Completed: 10/22/15

Summary: Lina is taken from her home by Russian soldiers before she can even change from her pajamas. Along with her mother and younger brother, she is placed on a train and sent off to Siberia to endure terrible conditions and manual labor - all because the Soviet government suspects their family of subversion. 

What I Thought: The humanitarian tragedy which occurred under Stalin and other leaders of the USSR often gets brushed over when studying the era, largely because WWII tends to dominate the historical landscape of that era. So many people are unaware of the huge numbers of Russians sent to prison camps for little or no real purpose. Their stories are not told with the same frequency or fervency as those who suffered and died in the Holocaust. Both stories deserve to be told, both as cautionary tales of brutal governments and as memorials to the millions who died at their hands. 

I consider myself to be among the woefully uneducated on this particular subject. I know Stalin shipped of countless people to prison camps in eastern and northern Russia, but I have never known much about them or what became of them. Sepetys' fictional account of teenage Lina and her family's experience was eye-opening for me in many ways. 

Unfortunately, I cannot say that I found anything particularly shocking or even surprising; by this point, the ways in which governments deal with their unwanted citizens is an all too familiar history lesson. I did, however, find Sepetys' writing to be beautiful and moving. The realities suffered by real people like Lina were horrifying and tragic. The stories of so many freezing to death in camps past the edge of the Arctic Circle especially impacted me and, in many ways, reminded me of the unfortunate souls in the Donner Party, though they did not have cruel soldiers withholding food, shelter, and warmth. 

I really enjoyed this book, even more than I expected to. I would definitely recommend it, not only to Russian history buffs or those interested in learning more about the horrors of Stalin's reign, but also anyone interested in stories of survival - both physical survival and the survival of the human spirit 

Quote I Loved: "You stand for what is right, Lina, without the expectation of gratitude or reward."

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Probably

A Reduced Review: This beautifully written historical fiction work shines a light on the victims of Stalin's reign of terror in Communist Russia. 

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