"Wow" is all I have to say (well, almost.)
I started it last night and COULD NOT put it down -ended up finishing it.
Lena is a Lithuanian teenager in 1941 when the Soviet Secret Police come at night
to take her family away.
"They took me in my nightgown. Looking 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."
Forced onto filthy cattle cars with thousands of other people Lena and her mother and brother try to stay alive and together as they are taken to work camps during Stalin's "cleansing" of the Baltic region.
Interspersed in the story are flashbacks to Lena's life before the upheaval and the contrast between the normalcy of her life before and her current life are so dramatic. A gifted artist, Lena draws secret pictures to record the atrocities that she witnesses, knowing people won't believe that they could even happen. She secrets the drawings in her suitcase lining and passes some from person to person, hoping her father will find them and know that she is alive.
I honestly found myself ignorant of most of the atrocities that are looked at in this book. I know we talked briefly of this time in history when I was in school but never discussed the genocide that occurred.
I truly feel that this book should be required reading in high school. Ruta Sepetys researched this book by traveling to visit family that had been through the upheavals in Lithuania and recording their stories. Many of the stories in the book are true accounts.
This novel looks at cruelty and small acts of kindness in wartime in a way that will touch your heart.