Between Shades of Gray: A Book Experience

As I went to the market yesterday my vehicle got stuck in a traffic jam. Ahead of me was a tractor with an attached lorry. In this lorry sat 9-10 laborers. All in a squat position, a sky of tiredness in their eyes, hair all grey from the dust that they may have worked all day long, and a silence in their demeanor amidst the sea of chaos of the traffic. Amongst these laborers was a guy, who most likely was 20 years old. As the tractor halted in the traffic, he started to make videos of himself on his mobile. In those small videos that he may be making and posting he would be presenting himself differently from the way, his and his family’s life was running. That’s how life is, it’s worth being different from person to person, place to place, scene to scene. The book “Between Shades of Grey”, by Ruta E. Sepetys discusses the worth of life from the eyes of prisoners of war.

The book is about the takeover of Lithuania and its people by Stalin. For reasons as petty as differences in opinions, Stalin occupied a number of countries to expand the horizons of the USSR. Men, women, and children of these lands were tortured and treated in the harshest possible way. In this book, the focus is on a Lithuanian family comprising four people, the Mother, the Father and their two children, the younger of whom is a boy named Jonas 10 years old, and the elder is a girl named Lina who is 15 years old. The family along with many other Lithuanians are being transported to Siberia by the Soviet army. The Father has been separated from the three at the advent of the journey itself. Lina, who is a gifted artist, draws pictures of scenes and people, just so that they can reach her Papa one day and he may know their whereabouts.

The book is extremely moving. The characters have been so well carved, their pain so intricately written, and their hope to return to Lithuania is so enriching as well as agonizing. The eagerness in the mother, son, and daughter to see their father someday crushes you. It reminded me of Markus Zusak’s book The Book Thief. Wars can be great for having a presumably intellectual discussion on international politics, the whys, the hows, and the whens. But for the one’s going through that mess, it is an endless whirlpool in which they have been thrown for no offense of theirs. Today too this is happening. In Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine, etc., as well as in our minds where we think a person is inferior to us because of their caste, religion, gender, or any other worthless bias. We need to wake ourselves up and read how history has been stained with liters of blood for something similarly petty. Or else the dead died in vain, and one day we shall too. You can buy the book from Amazon.

I looked down at the little pink face in the bundle. A newborn. The child had been alive only minutes but was already considered a criminal by the Soviets.

Between Shades of Grey by Ruta E Sepetys


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