"Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived?"
Near the end of Between Shades of Gray this is the question that is asked. It hits you in the gut and stays with you. When I finished this book and took another trip to the public library I wasn't ready to turn it in.
Ruta Sepetys has written a beautiful account of Lithuanian families being torn apart and hidden away in Siberia so that the Soviets could take over their country. Sepetys herself is the daughter of Lithuanian refugees who escaped to Germany.
This could have easily been the same story that we have all read- families rounded up, put on trains, carried away from everything they know, mistreated, etc. It is that story but the writing is so well done that it is a whole new story. The characters that Sepetys brings to life on the page were so real. Each person was an important to piece to the whole story and are still in my thoughts.
Her writing style was well accomplished- a perfect mix of sentence length, and boy does she know how to bring a chapter to a close. I knew that I was very connected to the characters and just knew that I was going to cry as some of them inevitably died. But that wasn't what caught my heart off guard. (Possible spoiler) The scene that was so unexpected and touching was knowing that clean clothes were saved (and not worn as layers in the freezing temps) through their whole ordeal so that they could be worn when they returned to their homes. It was a beautiful image of hope.
I learned about a chapter in history that I wasn't aware of. This story would be enjoyed by adults and young adults.