Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.
Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.
I had put off reading this book for a long time because I just knew that it was going to make me cry. How could a World War II story not?
I was sucked in from the beginning. The first line read "They took me in my nightgown" and I simply couldn't stop reading. I knew where it was going, and yet I was trapped instantaneously in the narrative. That first line cast a spell over me; a spell that required me to keep reading, to continue Lina's story without stopping. And I did.
The chapters were short; typically only a few pages each, which enabled me to fly through the novel as I told myself just a chapter more each time I came to the end of one. And yet within those short chapters, just a few pages, you come to know these characters. A vivid yet horrifying scene is painted for the reader; you can feel the cold, hear the screams, feel the pain that the characters are facing.
I had no idea how attached I had grown to the characters until the novel started drawing to a close. I had become part of their family, part of their misery...and as I read the last few chapters I cried. This novel was so beautiful, so poignant, so tragic. The characters felt real, the setting seemed real as I turned the pages [I know, it is a real place...I mean I felt as if I had been there with them]. I feel as though I had been punched right in the feels to borrow a popular fangirl phrase. I can't recommend this book enough; it is definitely worth the read.