Book: Between Shades of Gray
Author: Ruta Septys
Sometimes when I watch the news and see stories happening to people on the other side of the country or the world, I feel so disassociated. I say to my TV, ‘Oh that is horrible!” and then the next story comes on the TV, I go about my day and the story floats out of my mind. Have you ever read a book like that? One whose words float right through you?
Have you ever read a book that affects you so deeply they turn your dreams into scenes from the book? One whose words float through the air and into your head so that you see the character’s world through their eyes and feel what they feel? That is what reading the book, “Between Shades of Gray” was like for me. Literally. After I closed this book and laid my head down to sleep, my dreams were pervaded with the goriest imagery from Lina’s story. This book made me feel as if I have failed as a human being.
Ugh. The scene with the lice was one of the most disgusting things I have ever read. I would not like to see a depiction of that, but I would love to see Lina’s drawings. Maybe a fan of the book has created a few I haven’t found yet.
One of the things I like best about this book is something I learned only by reading the author’s note at the back of the book. The amount of research Ruta Septys completed for her work is staggering. She went to Lithuania and talked to survivors about their experiences and drew from each of them. Events portrayed in the book happened. To real people. Less than 100 years ago. There are survivors of those atrocities still alive. Knowing that made this book all the more difficult to both put down and digest. Ruta was raw, brutal and gruesome in her imagery and narration of the things Lina and her family and friends endured.
As a lover of history and culture, I was riveted to this book. As a compassionate human being, I was horrified at what they suffered. We all learned about Hitler, the Nazis, and their concentration camps, the Jewish genocide, the ghettos and Anne Frank. There are hundreds of books written about them and I have read quite a few, but this is the first book I’ve read in regards to what Stalin did to the Lithuanians, Estonians, Latvians and more.
The ending of this book (and I will NOT spoil it) left me feeling incomplete. The way Septys closed the book left me wanting more, to know more and read more the way all good books do.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. The writing is lyrical and beautiful even when depicting some of the most disgusting and brutal imagery. The story is enthralling. The ending made me so intensely sad I cried for hours after closing the book. If you are not moved by Lina’s story, I have one question: are you a robot?
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PS. As my mother works for Barnes and Noble, I am strictly a BN girl. The links above will take you to BN, not Amazon, etc.