Author: Ruta Sepetys
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 352 pages (paperback)
Release: March 2011
"We're dealing with two devils who both want to rule hell."
It took me a long time to read this novel and I have no idea why. Historical fiction, particularly stories surrounding World War Two, are some of my favorite novels to read. They can be very hard hitting though, so reading a lot of them back to back can be emotionally draining.
And this novel is no different.
This novel deals with a lesser written about, lesser known part of the history of WWII. Lina, our main character, and her family are Lithuanian. Stalin invaded and annexed Lithuania, arresting and killing many of its citizens. In this story, Lina and her family are some of those arrested and we hear, from her own perspective, about what happens to them as they go.
The author note at the end made me appreciate the novel even more than I did on its own. History is something that is important and sharing these stories keeps it alive, allowing us to prevent, if we choose to exercise that power, a repeat offense. Her note wasn't long, but it was touching to hear her personal connection and how she researched the novel.
Between Shades of Gray is, essentially, a love story. Not a love story in the traditional sense, though there is some romance, but a love story that spans all types of love. There is love of family, of country, friends, neighbors, strangers, of God. And sometimes, there are small instances of kindness in the least likely of places.
War, though it shows us the worst of humanity, often shows us what is best about our species as well. It's easy to judge another when you don't have all the facts, but a closer look often reveals something hidden beneath the surface. There is evil in the world, but there is also goodness. And if anything, that is what this novel shows. It has horror, yes, but above all of that it has love.
I met Ruta a little over a year ago, after having read Out of the Easy, which I very much enjoyed. I hope that I get to meet her again one day so that I can tell her how much this novel and her own personal story have touched and inspired me.
I listened to this one on audio and while overall I think that the narrator, Emily Klein, was a good narrator, at times her tone didn't fit the narrative for me. Sometimes during serious, darker parts, her tone almost made it sound like the characters were joking about things. This wasn't true most of the time, but did have these moments that pushed me out of the story.
Overall I highly recommend this, whether read in the physical format or listened to on audio, this is a book that everyone should read.