Between Shades of Gray by Rita Sepetys is a young adult novel based upon actual accounts of the atrocities by Stalin and the Soviets during the 1940’s- 1960’s. Protesting intellectuals from Latvia, Estonia, and the other countries taken over by Soviets were rounded up and shipped in cattle cars to Siberia where they were imprisoned or put to work on farms with the expectation that they would be worked to death. The spouses and children of the intellectuals were not spared and thus this account is told by the 16 year old daughter of a college provost. The mother and father of this girl both die and she and her little brother are eventually sent to the arctic circle to perform slave labor supporting the army personnel who are stationed there. There is an element of romance between Lina and a boy as well as tension caused by the young soldier who obviously admires her. I doubt that teenage girls will be drawn to read this story even though it holds many of the same plot elements as the popular Twilight books. It’s just too depressing… especially when they realize that it is more fact than fiction!
Book Story Share
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt is definitely one of my favorite books of 2011. This is a young adult novel set in the late ‘60’s, told from the perspective of a boy who is uprooted and moved to a small town in New York state. Doug is the youngest of three sons with a sweet but strong mother and an abusive, drunken father. The eldest son is a soldier in Viet Nam and the middle son is seen a delinquent by all the people of their new town. Doug struggles with issues of identity and loyalty. Luckily, an intelligent and interesting girl, an elderly male librarian, and an eccentric author befriend him. I found the perspective of Doug very illuminating and hope that others will read this book and, like me, remember how much a kind deed and an open heart can mean to a young person whose circumstances have placed him at a disadvantage.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic and Madness in the Fair that Changed AmericaBy Erik Larsen
The Magic of the White City is the title of a DVD I just checked out from the library after finishing this book. I also spent better than an hour on the Internet this past weekend looking up more information on the Columbian World’s Exhibition of 1893 because my curiosity has been so aroused after reading Devil in the White City.
I love reading historical fiction and this story – although officially a non-fiction book – reads more like a novel. The author weaves together the facts and personalities involved in the huge and costly undertaking of the fair with the sinister and mysterious story of H. H. Holmes, the serial killer who took advantage of trusting young women who came to Chicago for the fair or just looking for work during the economic depression of those years.
I will admit that I did not spend any time pondering the details of the crimes committed by Holmes. My focus was primarily spent on the fair and the incredible spectacle it must have been! I wish we had details of the numbers of people who came from far away states or countries. The author explains that the numbers were lower than Burnham and the other developers had hoped for, but the depressed economy was to blame. I remember hearing my mother and aunts saying that some of their aunts and uncles had gone to the fair, and how I wish I could read their journals or letters today!
Now I’m going to quit writing and take a look at this DVD to learn some more about the fair!
Unbroken: a World War II story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
Reading this biography of Louis Zamperini I was struck with its absolute improbability and yet the first-hand accounts and collaboration of witnesses bear out the old saying that “truth is stranger than fiction”.
This is the story of a Italian-American kid who had both street-smarts and real intelligence. When his elder brother finally helped channel Louis’ energies into running, Olympic gold was well within the realm of possibility until WW II stole his dream.
Louis was an Army Air Force bombardier who was shot down over the Pacific and nearly died before being pulled out of his tiny raft by the Japanese. He then endured torture and starvation in a prison camp until the end of the War. His story after the war wasn’t very pretty either until Louis heard a message that helped him leave the past behind and set new goals.
The title of this book, ‘unbroken’, leads the reader to infer a connection to both the running records Zamperini set before the war and the resilience of his will to live despite overwhelming circumstances. It gives testimony to the power of friendship, the importance of hope, and the capacity of the human will.
Thanks to those whose recommendations prompted the reading of this book.