Monday, March 28, 2011
Between Shades of Gray is heartbreaking, horrifyingly brutal, yet important book. It tells a story long covered up and forgotten, and Sepetys boldly illuminates the tragedy of the forced deportations of hundreds of thousands of people in Lithuania and the Baltic region during World War II and the terrible crimes committed against those people by the Soviets. The novel is packed with emotion, and Sepetys tells it in short chapters of affecting prose that will grab hold of the reader and not let go. Lina is an observant and intelligent narrator who deals with the atrocities by committing them to her artwork, and at the same time she also attempts to send messages to her father and give hope to the small community of people her family has aligned themselves with. Through all of their trials, Sepetys illustrates how terrible hardships bring out the best and worst in people, and that the human body and spirit is far more resilient than anyone could ever imagine. Despite how tragic and impossible Lina's plight is, Between Shades of Gray is also not without its small triumphs as Lina fights to survive and come to peace with the circumstances surrounding her family's imprisonment. This impeccably researched novel is terribly important, and it is my hope that it will find a home in every classroom in the country.
Cover Comments: Beautiful, hopeful cover. It's perfect.
ARC picked up GLIBA.
Ruta was kind enough to stop by for a moment and answer a couple of questions about her book:
TCR: Why did you choose to give Lina the ability to draw as the means to express herself?
RS: When I was doing research for the novel, I learned that many survivors voiced their pain through art and music. It was the only way they could express themselves as speaking of their experience would have meant punishment or imprisonment by the Soviets. Also, my father is an artist and I thought it would be a small tribute to him.
TCR: Did having a personal connection to this story make it easier or harder to write?
RS: On one hand, it made it easier because I was familiar with the dynamic and culture surrounding the history. On the other hand, it was difficult because the horrible things I was writing about had happened to people I met.
TCR: Can you recommend any other books to readers looking to educate themselves on Stalin's purging of the Baltics?
RS: Thanks so much for asking! I’d like to recommend:
DVD: Red Terror on the Amber Coast by Domedia Productions
DVD: The Singing Revolution by James Tusty & Maureen Castle Tusty
TCR: Do you think that you'll write any other books set in Lithuania or set during Stalin's reign?
RS: Initially, I didn’t think so, but I’ve been receiving emails from readers asking me to continue Lina’s story. So you never know!
Thank you so much for having me here at The Compulsive Reader!
Now, courtesy of Penguin Books, I have a signed copy of Ruta's book up for grabs for a U.S. reader. Leave me a comment below to enter to win!