They took me in my nightgown.
Thinking back, the signs were there—family photos
burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and
jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape.
We were taken.
June 14, 1941. I had changed into my nightgown and settled
in at my desk to write my cousin Joana a letter. I opened
a new ivory writing tablet and a case of pens and pencils, a gift from my aunt for my fifteenth birthday.
The evening breeze floated through the open window
over my desk, waltzing the curtain from side to side. I could smell the lily of the valley that Mother and I had planted two years ago. Dear Joana.
It wasn’t a knocking. It was an urgent booming that made
me jump in my chair. Fists pounded on our front door. No
one stirred inside the house. I left my desk and peered out into the hallway. My mother stood flat against the wall facing our framed map of Lithuania, her eyes closed and her face pulled with an anxiety I had never seen. She was praying.
“Mother,” said Jonas, only one of his eyes visible through
the crack in his door, “are you going to open it? It sounds as if they might break it down.”
Mother’s head turned to see both Jonas and me peering out
of our rooms. She attempted a forced smile. “Yes, darling. I will open the door. I won’t let anyone break down our door.”
The heels of her shoes echoed down the wooden floor of
the hallway and her long, thin skirt swayed about her ankles. Mother was elegant and beautiful, stunning in fact, with an unusually wide smile that lit up everything around her. I was fortunate to have Mother’s honey-colored hair and her bright blue eyes. Jonas had her smile.
Loud voices thundered from the foyer.
“NKVD!” whispered Jonas, growing pale. “Tadas said they
took his neighbors away in a truck. They’re arresting people.”
“No. Not here,” I replied. The Soviet secret police had no
business at our house. I walked down the hallway to listen and peeked around the corner. Jonas was right. Three NKVD officers had Mother encircled. They wore blue hats with a red border and a gold star above the brim. A tall officer had our passports in his hand.
“We need more time. We’ll be ready in the morning,”
“Twenty minutes—or you won’t live to see morning,” said
“Please, lower your voice. I have children,” whispered
“Twenty minutes,” the officer barked. He threw his burning
cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it
into the wood with his boot.
We were about to become cigarettes.
From BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys. Published by arrangement with Philomel, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright © 2011 by Ruta Sepetys.
Fifteen-year-old Lina was taken in her nightgown. Arrested in Lithuania in 1941—along with her mother and brother—by the Soviet Secret Police, she suddenly found herself on a harrowing odyssey across thousands of miles to a frozen Siberian gulag. There, forced to live under the cruelest conditions, she finds solace in her art, documenting her experiences through her drawings and hoping against hope that they would somehow make their way to her father to let him know that they’re still alive.
Written by Ruta Sepetys, herself the daughter of Lithuanian refugees, Between Shades of Gray is a revelation, one that gives voice to those who suffered during Stalin’s Baltic cleansing…and that captures the power of the human spirit.
Hardcover Book : 352 pages
Publisher: Philomel Books ( March 22, 2011 )
Item #: 13-311113
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.79inches
Product Weight: 14.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
This is one book that everyone should read. Its one of those can't put it down books and one that will stay with you.
Thank you Ruta Sepetys for writing this story. It should be a required reading for every high school student. It broke my heart what people had to endure in such inhuman conditions. They had such spirit and courage to survive. I still think about this book. A number ONE best seller !!!
Reviewer: Ann G
I READ THIS BOOK A FEW MONTHS BACK AND IT STILL HAUNTS ME. GOD HELP US ALL. THIS IS ONE THAT NEEDS TO BE READ AND STUDIED IN SCHOOLS. YOUNG FOLKS NEED TO KNOW THAT IF WE ARE NOT CAREFUL THE PAST WILL REPEAT AGAIN.
Reviewer: Devon R
I basically agree with the previous reviewers and my review headline can be taken a couple of ways. One way is that the author ended the story too abruptly. I would have liked to know how the surviors were liberated and made their way back home and without giving anything away, how the relationship between Andrius and Lina developed. Overall a very exciting and interesting read.
Reviewer: steven w
Between Shades of Gray takes you to a place to which no one should ever have to be subjected. This astonishing account of what our ancestors survived both fascinated and repulsed me. This period of history in this corner of the world has always captivated me...and Sepetys writes with such candor that you are right with the characters as they endure atrocities it's difficult to imagine anyone could survive or shell out. Her insight into both the victims and the heinous perpetrators makes this a quick read you won't want to put down.