This is the story of Lina Vilkas, a young girl who lived in Lithuania during World War 2. Her and her family were taken, like so many others from this country, to work camps. We follow her as she travels to the work camps and as her lives and works in them.
This was absolutely heartbreaking in some spots. It was definitely eye-opening though. I never knew that the Soviets took people from the Baltic States. Since most modern history focuses on the German Holocaust, this other genocide tends to fall to the sides. I am definitely interested in learning more about this now that I know it happened.
I learned a lot from this book. Not only did I learn that the genocide of the Baltic States happened, I also learned that Josef Stalin was not his name. Iosif Vissarionovich Dxhugashvili changed his name to Josef Stalin which means ‘Man of Steel.’
This book deserves 5 stars because it does what so many books can’t do. Ruta Sepetys took an impossibly hard topic and made it into an amazing book that didn’t take away from the severity of the situation. I would definitely suggest this anyone and everyone. I feel that this is a topic that everyone should read about. Even though it is sad and not the most pleasant topic, it is still so important. I read it knowing it took place in Siberia, not that it was about the genocide, but I am still so glad I read it.
This book goes back and forth between really sad and really happy. We get the present in which they are working and starving, but we also get flashbacks when everything was still good. The flashbacks are some of my favorite parts, they are also the smallest.
It seems like there might be a small romance between Lina and Andrius. It’s so hard to tell though. They have moments throughout, only when they are alone, of sweet conversation and stolen looks. It really makes you wish they could have met at school or somewhere, anywhere else. If only they had met somewhere not on a cattle train, maybe they could have been friends or grow up and gotten married. The sad part about this is that it was a reality for so many people. So many people met in these horrible conditions and never got to live the rest of their lives the way we are able to. These children never got to grow up and get married or have children of their own. It’s really sad to think about and I think that’s what makes this story just a little more heartbreaking.
My favorite part of this book is the Epilogue. The Epilogue made me so happy. When the construction worker reads the letter and it references the writers husband, Andrius, it made me smile to know that even though these are fictional characters, we get a happy ending. I love it when books have the extra information about after the end of the actual story.