Between Shades of Gray Summary & Study Guide

Ruta Sepetys
This Study Guide consists of approximately 32 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Between Shades of Gray.
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Between Shades of Gray Summary & Study Guide Description

Between Shades of Gray Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

Lina Vilkas is fifteen years old in 1941 when a group of Russian officers beats on the door of the family home. Her mother answers and the officers rush in, placing the family under arrest but without any information why they are being targeted. Lina, her mother Elena, and her younger brother, Jonas, are taken to a railroad station with hundreds of others. There, they are loaded onto train cars and left. It's soon discovered that one of the ladies is sitting over a hole in the corner of the car in an effort to have some fresh air. She's forced to move and that hole becomes the bathroom for the coming days. One of those in the group is a young woman who was taken from the hospital moments after giving birth to a daughter. The child dies during the trip and the mother, sick and crazed with grief, is shot in front of the group. Before they leave the station, Lina slips away from the train car and finds her father. He believes they are going to Siberia. Lina never sees him again.

Lina and the others are soon in route to the prison camp that becomes their home for the next ten months, Turaciak. They are forced to share a tiny shack with an old woman who is rude and constantly angry. Lina is forced to reevaluate her opinion of Andrius, a boy who had come with them on the train. Andrius' mother becomes a prostitute for the Russians in order to keep Andrius alive. Lina and the others work brutal hours and are tormented when they refuse to sign papers admitting they are criminals and agreeing to serve twelve years hard labor.

After ten months, Andrius learns that a group of people is being sent to the Arctic Circle. Lina, Elena and Jonas are on the list but Andrius is not. They travel by train, truck, and barge to reach Trofimovsk. Lina and her family are assigned to group eleven. There are no buildings for the prisoners who are forced to build their own shelters. The daily rations include only a small piece of bread. Group eleven suffers several deaths. When Elena is told her husband has been executed, she seems to give up hope and soon dies as well. However, there are also triumphs. Lina and a little girl from the group find a dead owl. The members of their group have a feast that night.

Jonas grows ill with scurvy from malnutrition and Lina is desperate when they hear a knock on their shack door and find a doctor there. He'd been alerted to the conditions by a guard and stepped in, demanding care for the sick and food for all the prisoners. The story ends with Lina holding onto hope that she'll be reunited with Andrius. The epilogue is a letter buried by Lina in 1954 and found in 1995. In the letter, she says she's buried her writings and drawings with the hope that someone will find them so the world will know what happened to thousands of her fellow Lithuanians. She indicates that she and Andrius did marry and that she hopes that by sharing this knowledge, the events will never be repeated.

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