Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Hold on to your hats  - this is going to be a good review. I haven't read a book this moving in, well, I don't know when (how cliche - I know...).

I don't know if I could do the novel justice - it was mind blowing, heart breaking, well-written literature. I would recommend this book again and again to readers of all ages; this is NOT cheesy YA writing: this is grit, power, emotion, history, real.

The opening line to this novel is: "They took me in my nightgown." 

How could you not want to read on? She is an author that will now be on my shelf. I will read anything she writes and I'm already looking forward to her next book Out of the Easy. (Which, by they way, opens with "My mother's a prostitute." She has a way of grabbing you from the start!)

From the official Between Shades of Gray website:
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for her life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they 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, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
Between Shades of Gray is a riveting novel that steals your breath, captures your heart, and reveals the miraculous nature of the human spirit.

An excerpt from Chapter One:


Thinking back, the signs were there—family photos burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape.

We were taken. June 14, 1941. 

I had changed into my nightgown and settled in at my desk to write my cousin Joana a letter. I opened a new ivory writing tablet and a case of pens and pencils, a gift from my aunt for my fifteenth birthday.

The evening breeze floated through the open window over my desk, waltzing the curtain from side to side. I could smell the lily of the valley that Mother and I had planted two years ago. Dear Joana.

It wasn’t a knocking. It was an urgent booming that made me jump in my chair. Fists pounded on our front door. No one stirred inside the house. I left my desk and peered out into the hallway. My mother stood flat against the wall facing our framed map of Lithuania, her eyes closed and her face pulled with an anxiety I had never seen. She was praying. 

“Mother,” said Jonas, only one of his eyes visible through the crack in his door, “are you going to open it? It sounds as if they might break it down.”

Mother’s head turned to see both Jonas and me peering out of our rooms. She attempted a forced smile. 

“Yes, darling. I will open the door. I won’t let anyone break down our door.”

The heels of her shoes echoed down the wooden floor of the hallway and her long, thin skirt swayed about her ankles. Mother was elegant and beautiful, stunning in fact, with an unusually wide smile that lit up everything around her. I was fortunate to have Mother’s honey-colored hair and her bright blue eyes. Jonas had her smile. Loud voices thundered from the foyer.

“NKVD!” whispered Jonas, growing pale. “Tadas said they took his neighbors away in a truck. They’re arresting people.”

“No. Not here,” I replied. The Soviet secret police had no business at our house. I walked down the hallway to listen and peeked around the corner. Jonas was right. Three NKVD officers had Mother encircled. They wore blue hats with a red border and a gold star above the brim. A tall officer had our
passports in his hand.

Copyright © 2011 by Ruta Sepetys.


  1. I'm sold and ready to purchase! Mom :)

  2. I loved this book! It sticks with you long after you turn the last page. I've been eager to get Out of the Easy as well. Maybe soon.

    1. I want to read "Out of the Easy" too - it'll be on my Kindle ASAP!