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Between Shades of Gray
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Book Club Discussions > March 2012- Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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message 1: by Jennifer W, WT Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jennifer W | 1289 comments Mod
Welcome to March's group read! Use this thread to discuss Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Please mark spoilers.


Kellee Moye (kelleemoye) This one is hard to put into words. This is such a powerful story with characters that you grow to love as they are put through hell. What makes the hell even more grotesque is that it is based off of stories that really happened during a time of history that does not get spoken of too often. Like Holocaust books, this book is one that will rip you apart as you read it. It starts so suddenly and you are breathless as Lina and her family are dragged from their home and put into trucks and trains with conditions none of us can even fathom. Since the book is told from Lina's point of view and she had no idea that her family was even in danger, the fear and shock that she feels resonates with you as a reader and lends the the horror that you will feel. But the true theme behind this book is love & hope and how important they are and how they can be found even in the most horrible of situations.

Ruta Sepetys did a couple really brilliant things with this book that I really appreciated. First, I loved the theme of art throughout the novel and how it is what kept Lina sane. How she weaved Munch and his artwork throughout the story really captured my attention. Second, I really appreciated the way that she would use a single word to trigger a memory that Lina would share with us. It is exactly how real life is when you make connections between the present and memories.

I will say that the only negative thing I have to say is that I wanted more. I really felt that it started to rush a bit towards the end and then it ended too suddenly. However, it was not done in a way that hurt the brilliance of the book, but just enough to bother me.

And now, I am intrigued by this time of history. As I've stated in the past, I didn't feel like I had a very good history education and often learn new things from historical fiction- this was no exception. I'd always known Stalin was evil, but I never knew why. This book taught me so much and has made me want to learn more. I was talking with a friend about it and she made a very good point- we often don't learn about genocides or other hardships within a country if the dictator doesn't cross borders. It is only when it starts to affect us do we begin to care. That needs to change and this history is one example of why.

Maree | 233 comments I think pretty much all my groups just whirlwinded through reading this book. I read it a while ago, but I still remember how powerful it was.

I think you make a lot of great points, Kellee, about history and how we don't hear about a lot of things when dictators don't cross borders. I have to wonder at all the secret stuff going on in North Korea. I was also kind of astonished by the things that the people in China didn't know about their own violent protest history - they just don't teach it in schools, and I guess parents don't tell their kids about it. It's kind of frightening to know these tragedies can disappear so easily.

Kristen Harvey | 1046 comments I agree with you Kellee about the end of this one. I felt like it was too sudden as well, but definitely a beautiful novel overall. :)

Angie (angiebayne) I really love when a book shines a light on an area of history that I was completely unaware. So many books written about WWII talk about the Jews and the Nazis, but never have I read about what happened in the Baltic states and Russia. It is such a tragic, hidden part of history. I too feel like my education is lacking in this area. I think Sepetys does this story justice. She tells the story of Lina and her family in such a beautiful and honest way. She doesn't sugar-coat any of the details or try to make it any more tragic than it really was. This book will touch something inside of you as you read about their struggle to survive and their will to live. I thought their voices were honest and really rang with sincerity. My only complaint is that it ended very abruptly and while the epilogue did give some additional information I would have liked to have know just a bit more about what happened to them. I read this book months ago and it is one that I still think about; it was that powerful of a story.

Suzanne I'm about halfway through now - and I agree with the above comments (well except about the ending since I haven't gotten there =D ) . Ihe way the author depicts the bewilderment, and even just the smelliness, has really drawn me in. I love Lina's mother and her strength!

Suzanne I finished the book, and have to echo the above comments - I never realized what happened with the Baltic states and the Soviets, and how long it lasted! I agree about the ending too - there are unanswered questions - and since I have grown to love these people I'd love details about what happened.

message 8: by Dru (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dru (steensgirl) | 1 comments I actually had previous knowldge of Stalin and his rule because I'm a Russia fan. Don't ask why, it's hard to explain...but this book was really interesting because it kind of showed what happened in the Baltic states that no one really knows about. At least in America. That's one good thing about the book that it shows a different side of histoy. Like the above comments, not a lot of people know about Stalin and their take over and the KGB (NKVD in the book I think - it's the same branch of secret service) and the Bolshevieks and what not. It's always Hitler this Hitler that genocide of the Jews and all that horror. But not only that the book was really well written and I was so much taken into the story that one of my friends (one of the 3 I convinced to read the book) actually felt cold while reading the book and had to get a blanket. An amazing feat seeing as we are in Texas. But I rally liked how we are taken into the charactrs mind. I was realy hoping to see what became of her little map on the napkin that she was giving to her dad. We know what happened to her dad but not what happened to her map (that I recall).

Desiree Perhaps it is because I read some of the comments on the book prior to finishing so I was preparing for a very abrupt ending but I was okay with it being over. The epilogue tied everything together. I enjoy historical fiction and like others it was nice to read about a part of history that I am not familiar with. I also was particularly intrigued because I was deployed to Bosnia in '95 - '96. The descriptions in this book are so vivid that they have actually changed the way I clean out the refrigerator. Food now stays around a little longer than its "best by date" and the bruises on bananas aren't so dark. Books linger on my mind and this one is staying around a little longer. DJ - I forgot about the map. It would be nice to know what happened to the map and I had forgotten about that. Although, I am sure a lot of things were sent on that way with no hope for response. In some ways, I wonder if that is part of the point...

message 10: by Jennifer W, WT Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jennifer W | 1289 comments Mod
I'm glad I finally got to read this one. It's such an important story. I think the author had to choose a point to end the story. (view spoiler)

A while ago I read a similar book for adults called One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. I believe it is semi-autobiographical of the author's experience in a Siberian work camp. I think these two books compliment each other very well. Both books address both the fear and the tedium of being under the NKVD/KGB, and the little things you do to survive. They also do a very good job of making the reader comprehend just how cold Siberia is! I would recommend One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich if you'd like to read another experience of this time period, though it's not as readable as Between Shades of Gray.

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