Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Philomel Books - YA/WWII
Philomel Books - YA/WWII
Lina, a Lithuanian, is 15 years old and looking forward to art school when the Soviet secret police pound on her family's door, allowing them mere minutes to pack. It's 1941. Her father has already been taken away, probably imprisoned, maybe already put to death in a prison camp. Lina, her brother Jonas and her mother have no idea where they're going. Ahead of them lies a treacherous journey to Siberia.
Along the way, Lina draws clues to let him know where they've gone, hoping he will be able to follow their path. Will Lina's father find her messages? Is he even alive? How long will her family be able to survive the cold and starvation?
One thing that never ceases to amaze me: How completely bottomless the well from which the stories of WWII are drawn. Ruta Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee and in the author's notes she describes how and why the stories of Lithuanians were suppressed. Stalin "cleansed" the Baltic region? I had no idea.
It's been a couple weeks since I finished reading Between Shades of Gray and Lina, upon reflection, is an interesting but fairly flat character so she hasn't stuck with me all that well. What has continued to roll around in my head is the story, itself. As Lina packs, she sets a loaf of bread in the window without realizing how valuable food will become to her family, instead packing the art supplies she values. When soldiers try to separate Jonas from Lina and their mother, her mother finds a way to keep them together. Cold, hunger, endless train rides followed by life working as slave labor on a farm and then more travel and deprivation, disease and cruelty -- and occasionally, amongst the horror, small acts of friendship. Those are the things that really linger in my mind.
Between Shades of Gray is a young adult novel that is gut-wrenching, believable, shocking and moving. The fact that it's aimed at a teen audience does not diminish the story in any way. I particularly loved Lina's mother. She's a character of immense strength and grace who not only manages to keep the family together and fed but also manages to make friends with almost everyone who crosses her path. Definitely recommended.
In other news:
I was aiming for "brief" with this review. How did I do?
I finished reading Home to Woefield two days ago and it was so completely wonderful that I'm having trouble getting excited about the books in my sidebar. I can't wait to babble about Woefield. In the meantime, I'll just go ahead and tell you it's worth buying. It's a five-star book. Trust me on that.
For the last week or two of March, I dropped the ball and didn't bother to keep track of books in/books out. But, I've got two arrivals sitting beside my head (there's a dresser not far away) and I'll dash to the bedroom to grab the others. Here you go . . .
Dreams of Joy by Lisa See - from Random House
The White Devil by Justin Evans - from Harper (YA - creepy-looking!)
In Grandma's Attic and More Stories from Grandma's Attic - from B & B Media Group
True Courage by Steve Farrar - from B & B Media Group
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin - from St. Martin's Press
6 books went out the door, this week. I can probably get my records up-to-date but last time I looked, I had a net outgo of approximately 106 books for March. Not bad. I think I'll shoot for another 100-150 in April.
It has cooled off dramatically in our area but thanks to early heat, Mississippi is looking ridiculously colorful. It got so hot so fast (record-breaking upper-80s temps, last week) that a lot of things bloomed early and I totally missed the chance to photograph the wisteria. I always look forward to the wisteria. Here are some wet flowers from our library's garden:
And, a planter, still at the library. I haven't planted, yet, but I have some flowers sitting on the porch. It's rained most of the week. Hopefully, this weekend will be dry so I can get to the planting.
Kiddo read Jumper by Steven Gould, yesterday and has verified the comments I've read that the book is better, much better than the movie. Every time I turned around, there he was with the book in his hands. He used a paperclip as his bookmark. He's not particular, but he doesn't dog-ear (Thanks be to God Almighty -- I abhor dog-earing).
I'm a little worried about My Jane Austen Summer. Woefield after-effects aside, it's striking me as . . . weird. I just can't seem to follow the author's thought process. It's a tour book so I'll do my best to finish but I find I'd rather put it in a hamster cage than read it. Probably a good thing I don't own a hamster.
I think that's all the news. My headache has boomeranged on me and returned with a vengeance. Crap. I hate that. How has your week been?