“Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy—love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.” – Ruta Sepetys, Between Shades of Gray
Let me tell you about one of the most powerful novels I’ve ever read.
Chances are, you haven’t even heard of it. I know I hadn’t until my friend Katie gave it to me recently. She had heard from a fellow teacher that it was worth reading, so she picked it up for me at her school’s book fair since she knows how much I love to read.
Although it is marketed as a young adult book, it’s a must-read for adults of any age.
Given the state of our country at this time, the story is even more important than ever.
We are all, I would hope, well informed about the horrors of the Holocaust. What about the other genocide during World War II, though? I’ll admit that prior to reading Between Shades of Gray, I had no grasp of the extent of the horror endured by the Baltic people under Stalin during the war.
The novel follows Lina, a fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl whose family is taken during the night from their comfortable home by Soviet officers. Along with her mother and younger brother, Lina is sent to a work camp in Siberia. Her father is separated from them—after all, the reason the family was sent away is because her dad is an educated man working in a creative field.
That’s one of the aspects of the novel that is all too real in America in 2017. I never thought I would see such similarities between the former Soviet Union and the United States of America, but here we are. The Lithuanians that were taken and tortured were mostly well-to-do citizens working in the arts or humanities.
Now, take a look at the recent Muslim Ban in the United States—we’ve heard about Harvard University professors, cancer and diabetes researchers, and mathematical prodigies being kept from returning to our country. I don’t usually use this platform to discuss politics, but this novel truly scared me, even as a citizen of the U.S.
Although this book seems fairly short and digestible at first glance, it took me several weeks to finish it. I had to put it down for days at a time because it left me with an ache in my heart and a pit in my stomach.
Once you get to the end of the novel and find out how long these innocent people were held prisoner, your jaw will surely drop. You will also discover why, if you’re like me, you may not have heard much about this tragic time.
I’m thankful to the author for bringing light to this deplorable period in human history.
I hope that you will all read it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts once you do.
While I am all for a lighthearted, fun novel, books like this one remind me of the importance of words and why they mean so much to me and so many others.