Between Shades of Gray is an important book. And I don't say that lightly.
This young adult novel tells the story of a 15-year-old Lithuanian girl who, along with the rest of her family, is rounded up for being "anti-Soviet" in 1941 and deported to a work camp in Siberia. Many of the events described in the novel -- some of them major plot points, others almost side notes to the story -- are so harrowing and unthinkably awful that you might criticize the story for being over-the-top and unrealistic. Except that, although the characters themselves are fictional, almost every event in the novel is based on real accounts given to the author by survivors of these deportations.
I would like to think that I'm a fairly well-educated person who's aware of history, or at least of events that occurred in the last century, but I had never heard of the atrocities in this novel until I randomly picked it up from the bookstore and began to read. I now feel very ashamed to admit that I didn't even know that Germany and Russia fought over Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, let alone that teachers, doctors, lawyers, librarians and others were shipped off to Siberia for absolutely no reason at all. I did not know that there were work camps deep in the Arctic circle, or about the almost unsurvivable conditions people were forced to live in for over a decade, simply for the crime of being educated. Just as the Soviets intended when they put these plans into motion over 70 years ago, I simply did not know.
But everyone should know. Between Shades of Gray isn't an important book because it has the most stunning prose you'll ever read (it doesn't), but because, behind the facade of fiction, it tells a forgotten truth that people need to learn. I think people are more aware that men were shipped off to Soviet prisons, but the story of these women, and the horrors that they suffered, has mostly gone untold until now.
If you don't have chance to check out the book, at least watch the above video for a quick history lesson and some fascinating and heartbreaking insights into these events.
You can check out the book's website at www.betweenshadesofgray.com