Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys is based on accounts of the survivors of the Russian occupation of the Baltic countries during Stalin's ruthless government. Michigan-born author, Ruta Sepetys was compelled to tell this story as her family members were Lithuanian deportees and survivors. The Soviets generated lists of those considered anti-Soviet, including "doctors, lawyers, teachers, military servicemen, writers, business owners, musicians, artists, and even librarians…"
This historical fiction narrative is a story told through 15 year old Lina whose family was awakened during the night and forced to travel, seemingly endlessly by train, to their first labor camp in Siberia to pick beets; then, a few years later they were forced to travel again on another long train journey to a fishing camp further north in Siberia. Lina, an aspiring artist, used her creative talents to document the story, obtain favors from the NKVD, and try to contact her father who had been sent to a Soviet prison. Through Lina, the reader gets to know her mother, her brother, and other deportees in the camps as well as NVKD officers. The reader learns of Lithuanian Christmas traditions, foods, and the homes they left behind, as well as communal living in a jurta. Lina's spirit weaves through the fabric of Soviet brutality with wisdom and bravery.
Even though this was Ms. Sepetys' first novel, it has been honored with numerous awards and translated into more than 27 languages.