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Book Review: Between Shades of Gray

24 Mar

I stayed up late last night finishing this incredibly sad book and all I can say is, “What a disappointment!”  I was not at all pleased with how the author chose to end this book.  My mom and I have often discussed the ending to a good romantic comedy movie.  The basic plot line is often similar:  boy and girl meet, fall in love, something happens to tear them apart, boy and girl get back together and live happily ever after.  The difference between a not-so-great and great ending is that a great one will show boy and girl’s wonderfully heartfelt reunion and you are left feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.  In the not-so-great ending they allude to the reunion but you don’t get to see or feel any of the warm and fuzzy stuff.  I bet you can guess what happens in the bad endings… boy and girl don’t get back together.  So without giving anything away, this book did not have the great ending I was looking for.  After trudging through such a heart breaking story I was really waiting for the great payoff in the end and, sigh, it wasn’t there.

Currently nominated for several awards, this historical fiction novel tells the tale of a young, budding, Lithuanian artist named Lina.  The year is 1941 and the soviet secret police are deporting her family along with thousands of others.  Lina, her brother Jonas and her mother embark on a horrifying journey over thousands of miles and over the span of several years.  Lina secretly documents the injustices through her writing and art to share with the world what is happening and in hopes that her messages will somehow make their way to her father who has been sentenced to death in a prison camp.  Along the way Lina will learn about love and forgiveness and the strength needed for survival.

This novel was written by the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee and includes a note which provides more information about the plight of the people in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia during the Soviet/German war.  While I may have disliked the ending, it would be hard not to truly appreciate this book for the insight it brings to those unfamiliar with this piece of history, as well as the messages of love and forgiveness that are embodied by Lina’s mother.

Title:  Between shades of gray:  A novel

Author:  Ruta Sepetys

Publisher:  Philomel Books

ISBN:  978-0-399-25412-3

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