I’ve fallen in love with words on paper: Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray

Just in case your eyes deceived you, that’s Between Shades of Gray, not the other, less pleasant shades of gray. This one is a thousand… no, infinity times infinity better. I finished this book in two days and I would have finished it sooner had I not been working – it was that captivating.

Between Shades of Gray is a historical fiction novel set in Lithuania and Russia during the time of World War II. It revolves around Lina, a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl, and her life story as a prisoner of Soviet Russia. It shows how the people of the countries occupied by Russia were mistreated, punished and killed – and that the rest of the world was seemingly unaware of it because of the war against the Nazis.

When I saw this book on Amazon, I was unsure if I should get this or not mainly because I knew it was bound to break my heart into tiny little pieces that will take weeks (if I’m lucky) or months (if I’m not) to put back together. I love historical fiction, especially the ones that are about World War II and the Holocaust, but I also hate them just as much. You know how some people keep coming back to their ex-girlfriends or boyfriends even when they know they’re just going to get hurt in the end? That’s basically my relationship with historical fiction novels. The fact that such tragic and unimaginable stories are based on real experiences by real people make me that much more attached to the characters and the story and that much more depressed and broken after finishing it.

But now that I’ve read it, I feel like buying this book is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made when it comes to book-buying. To tell you the truth, I knew that there were people who suffered under the hands of Stalin and the Soviet Union but I never really paid that much interest to it because I assumed it wasn’t as compelling as the Holocaust. I couldn’t have been any more mistaken. To the people of Lithuania, I sincerely apologize. Before this book, the only thing I knew and, frankly, cared about Lithuania is its geographical location. Now, I have so much more respect for the country’s history, its people and how they came back from a truly devastating and horrific situation. So to the people of Lithuania, I just want to say that you are one really wonderful nation.

And now, some wonderful words from a wonderful book that would hopefully touch you the way it touched me:

Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch. (p.27)

“Kostas,” she sighed. “He was clumsy, but he was so sincere. Sometimes there is such beauty in awkwardness. There’s love and emotion trying to express itself, but at the time, it just ends up being awkward. Does that make sense?” (p.161)

“Good men are often more practical than pretty,” said Mother. (p.161)

They were happy to help someone, to succeed at something, even if they weren’t to benefit. We’d been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean. I realized that if we boosted one another, maybe we’d get a little closer. (p.307)

Between Shades of Gray is so real and so genuine. After reading it, my heart felt so heavy and so uplifted at the same time – it still is now. It ignites your soul to hope for a world that does not tolerate hatred and violence. It makes you want to do anything and everything possible to make sure such atrocities never happen again. It makes you care about people – not just the ones living around you, but also those who are living thousands of miles away, even in places you’ve never even heard of. It just makes you want to strive that much harder for humanity.

I seriously recommend this book. It teaches you history and life – something we all need every now and then.


5 thoughts on “I’ve fallen in love with words on paper: Ruta Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray

  1. literarygeekery June 5, 2013 / 2:38 am

    I have the same love/hate relationship with historical fiction novels, so I’ve been holding off on reading this book for a while. Your review of it, however, was absolutely lovely, so I think I’ve been persuaded to finally check it out.

    • Kathryn G June 5, 2013 / 5:11 pm

      It’s a really good book. The pain you might feel will be worth it. What other historical fiction novels have you read?

  2. Pamela Beckford June 5, 2013 / 2:42 am

    Thank you for the recommendation. I bought this about a year ago and it has been hanging out on my Nook bookshelf waiting for me. It just always seems to have gotten pushed aside. So now, as soon as I’m done with the book I’m reading, it gets moved up to be next!

    • Kathryn G June 5, 2013 / 5:12 pm

      You won’t regret it! What book are you reading now?

      • Pamela Beckford June 5, 2013 / 5:31 pm

        The Good House by Ann Leary. Very good book. Just wish I had more time to read.

        If you like historical fiction, you should read Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker. It was very very good

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