I have read many books dealing with the Holocaust and World War II. They all revolved around Germany's conquests and the suffering of the Jews. I had never quite heard about the Lithuanians that suffered under such cruel conditions. I seriously hate that this is not a story more shared with students. It was an atrocity that was overshadowed by the darkness of Hitler.
In this story, Lina is this bright and artistic girl. She has been raised to think for herself, which has become very dangerous in the society around her. One night her father did not come home, and the NKVD came in and took Lina, her mother, and her little brother away. Thousands of others were taken from their home, put on trains, and sold off as laborers. They lived under horrible conditions. Lina and her family, with a lot of work, managed to stay together as they traveled from Lithuania. As innocent people, they are treated as criminals, moved from place to place with no clear explanation.
The story follows Lina throughout the terrors that surround her as her circumstances affect her and her art. Thankfully, in the midst of the horrors, Ms. Sepeptys managed to give her readers glimpses of hope throughout the frozen terrain. It is a truly fantastic example of fine storytelling.
Finally, I must mention the research. She went to Lithuania twice. She talked to survivors. And she went through a simulation of the prison Lithuanians would have went through. It was an incredibly intense process. It is incredibly commendable.
Who Should Read It: I think this a story that everyone should read. It is some fabulous historical fiction.