Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys
Nikki’s Rating: 10 out of 10
Summary: June 14, 1941, Stalin begins his deportation of people in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia who are deemed anti-Soviet. 15-year-old Lina is taken in the middle of the night with her family. Forced into labor camps with hundreds of others, her family must stay together to survive the harsh conditions of the Arctic circle and the brutalities of the NKVD officers.
10 Beloved Things about Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray
(May Contain Spoilers)
1. Real Experiences
While the characters are fictional in Between Shades of Gray all the experiences were inspired by true events and situations that survivors experienced. Absolutely horrifying and touching!
Up until reading this book, I was totally ignorant on Stalin’s cleansing of the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Between Shades of Gray was an eye-opener for me about what happened and also how it was kept secret for so long.
Ruta Sepetys does an amazing job of capturing the experiences of the survivors she interviewed to write Between Shades of Gray. Lina seemed so real, it felt like I was reading a diary.
4. Different Reactions
We all react to stress, terror, and death differently. Septeys captured these differences effortlessly. Some characters became complacent or even worked with the NKVD officers. Others became angry and would take out their frustration on other victims. Most did what they had to for survival while still trying to help their fellow prisoners.
Between Shades of Gray is a powerful novel and so emotional. You will cry, you will smile, your heart will break and then be lifted up. This novel is absolutely beautiful!
6. The Writing
Ruta Sepetys kept the writing elegant and simple, there are no unnecessary words or sentences. Easy to read but effectively well-written.
While reading Between Shades of Gray was difficult due to the subject matter, Ruta Sepetys does an amazing job of allowing the reader to comprehend the trauma that the victims went through without actually traumatizing the reader. Yes, the novel is disturbing and unpleasant to read at times, but there are no detailed, bloody torture scenes.
8. Strength in Humanity
One of the strongest things about this novel, is not the stories of what the victims survived, but how they survived together. The victims coming together, stealing food and other items needed for each other. Carrying one another when one was too weak or injured. The NKVD soldiers who took risks trying to help, regardless of the consequences.
9. Capacity for Cruelty
Humans are capable of such cruelty and during Stalin’s reign, the NKVD soldiers committed some serious atrocities. Sepetys includes many examples of the needless death, suffering, humiliation, and pain the victims endured.
Lina’s letter in the end, “My husband, Andrius…” made me sob. Love found even in the worst of times.