Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
December 1, 2011 § 3 Comments
Between Shades of Gray
LENGTH-7 hrs and 47 mins
AUDIBLE RELEASE DATE -03-22-11
PUBLISHER Penguin Audio
Wow…this is a difficult review to write because this was such an incredible, emotionally powerful story, I’m having a hard time finding the right words. I do want to say that Emily Klein did an OUTSTANDING job narrating this audio. I’m so glad that I chose to download the audio from Audible. Emily Klein’s narration was such that it immediately pulled me into the story and I felt like I was listening to Lina as she recounted what happened to her and her family. I also especially enjoyed listening to the author explain, at the end of the audio, a bit about the history behind this story and her inspiration for writing this book. I was completely clueless about this part of history but it’s certainly a story that needs to be told.
Between Shades of Gray tells a fictional story based around historical events that I am ashamed to say I was not aware of. During the time that Hitler was in power, he made a pact of non-aggression with Stalin in Russia which ceded several countries including Lithuania to Stalin. Stalin began arresting everyone who he believed may have anti-soviet leanings, men, women and children. Between Shades of Gray begins with Lina and her family being dragged from their home at gunpoint without explanation, loaded onto trains and shipped off. They had no idea where they were headed, all they knew was that there were hundreds of others in the same situation as they were, shoved like animals in a cattle cart on a train far away from everything they know. Lina tells about the journey, the struggles, the atrocities, and the kindnesses they found in the most unexpected places along the way.
It was those unexpected kindnesses and the moments of compassion and quiet strength that the author highlighted so beautifully that it left me a sobbing mess several times. The needless cruelties of some of the guards were in some ways shocking, but in some ways expected, because, far too often, its people that enjoy causing others’ misery that usually seek out these positions of power. One of the things that the author was able to convey was that, it is in the most dire circumstances that the truth of a person’s character becomes known. I think that some people would be surprised at some of the cruel things they may be willing to do to each other for the sake of their family’s and their own survival, just as I think they would be surprised at what they would be willing to risk in order to help a stranger. It’s amazing how far the human spirit can bend without ever being broken, and even then come back from such a unimaginably horrific ordeal and somehow be stronger and wiser and still have the capacity for love and compassion. Between Shades of Gray contains layer upon layer of truths about human nature, about love, about hope, and about determination intertwined into this heartfelt story that on the surface seems so hopeless and sad. The fact that the survivors of this had the foresight to bury the photos and letters and records of this time period so that their story could one day be told just astounds me.
I think that Between Shades of Gray is such an important story for a few reasons. First, to acknowledge what happened to the millions of Lithuanian people who died in these prisons and camp and those who survived to tell the story. Also, to be aware of the things a corrupt system is capable of. I recommend Between Shades of Gray to everyone. Below is a video of the author discussing some of the inspiration for the book and some of the research she did for it.