Published by Philomel on March 22nd 2011
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously-and at great risk-documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.
I have had this book on my shelf for quite some time now. It took my YA literature class to push me to read it. I needed a historical fiction and I knew that one had been raved about. Future award winner talk and all that good stuff you want to hear about a book.
This book starts right in the thick of things, the night that Lina, her mother and her brother are taken from their home. Throughout the book, she remembers that night, how she wishes she would have brought the steaming fresh loaf of bread on her window. Lina seems almost dazed at the beginning of the book and it is painted perfectly in this novel, her emotions overwhelming her thoughts. Her mother's mantra is to stay together, no matter what. Her brother almost gets taken at one point and all the while I am cheering for them to prevail.
This isn't your usual novel as it is about the Soviet side of the war and they too killed so many people while occupying different countries. The beautiful part of the book is Lina's keen attachment to drawing, to trying to let her father know that they are surviving by leaving her artwork. It is hard to describe how wonderful this book is. There is romance, there is stubbornness and the characters are ones you will not soon forget. Most of all, it's a story about survival and finding the best in those around us.
I love this book and hope everyone who reads it will as well. A touching and moving story that truly reveals human nature in every situation: the good, the bad and the ugly.