Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
Between Shades of Gray is an incredibly moving story that I devoured in mere hours, and I know Lina’s story will stay with me for a long time.
This novel is a story of courage, of hope, and of never changing who you are or backing down.
“Was it harder to die, or harder to be the one who survived? I was sixteen, an orphan in Siberia, but I knew. It was the only thing I never questioned. I wanted to live. I wanted to see my brother grow up. I wanted to see Lithuania again. I wanted to see Joana. I wanted to smell the lily of the valley on the breeze beneath my window. I wanted to paint in the fields. I wanted to see Andrius with my drawings. There were only two possible outcomes in Siberia. Success meant survival. Failure meant death. I wanted life. I want to survive.”
I had so many questions throughout this book. Will they survive? Will they see their father again? Will they ever go home? Will anyone ever know what happened to them? This questions pinged back and forth around my mind for hours, but thankfully, most of my questions were answered.
“It couldn’t end like this. It couldn’t. What was life asking of me? How could I respond when I didn’t know the answer?”
Our protagonist Lina is a strong, individual, and oftentimes stubborn, character. She got into a few tight spots, but she always managed to squeeze her way out of them. She tried her hardest to care for her mother, Elena, and for her younger brother, Jonas.
Jonas was an incredibly strong character, and I often forgot he was a boy of merely eleven years of age. (Ten at the beginning of the novel). He worked so hard, and sometimes stole, so that his family would have food. This particular part made my heart melt:
“Sir,” said Jonas, leaning around me. He held out his little ruler from school. The old woman who had gasped at my nightgown began to cry.”
Andrius was a complicated character, and many people’s feelings about him were all jumbled about. Not mine. From the moment we met him on that little train car, Andrius held a place in my heart, there was just something about him. He was a friend to Jonas, a friend to Lina (in the end, after she stopped trying to hate him), and he tried so hard to help his mother.
“No, you have no idea. You have no idea how much I hate myself for putting my mother through this, how every day I think of ending my life so she can be free. But instead, my mother and I are using our misfortune to keep others alive. But you wouldn’t understand that, would you? You’re too selfish and self-centred. Poor you, digging all day long. You’re just a spoiled kid.” He turned and walked away.”
Kertzsky. From the minute he appeared in this novel, I have had nothing but sympathy for him. He was a child playing soldiers. He didn’t enjoy tormenting the prisoners as the other guards did, and when he could, he helped them get food or wood. Many would argue he’s a bad person, but I see him differently. He could refuse to be a soldier, and be unable to help anyone, or he can remain a soldier and help people were possible.
“” Dr Samodurov, how did you find us?” I asked. “Nikolai Kertzsky,” was all he said.”
The plot was intense. There was always something to keep me reading, something to make me think of the book when I couldn’t continue reading it, something to keep me awake at night imagining what could possibly happen next. And that ending. The ending was amazing. I loved it. I love that we know Lina survived, we know Jonas survived, we know how long they were trapped and we know Lina and Andrius found each other. I don’t like that we never found out the fate of Lina’s father, Kostas. However, I do understand that it was to make us keep thinking of the book even after it had ended. It definitely did its job well, as even now, an hour after I finished reading it, I am sitting here writing this review, and thinking of nothing but this book. I would have liked to have read of Lina and Adrius finally finding each other, as that would definitely have been a beautiful moment to capture.
Overall, this was such a beautiful and captivating story that will stay with me for years to come. I recommend this book to everyone, be you young or old, male or female, this book is sure to strike a chord within your soul.
“Safe in the arms of hell.”
Find this review on my Goodreads