Published by Philomel Books on March 22nd 2011
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Fifteen year old Lina, is a normal teenage girl living in Lithuania until Soviets officers barged into her home and forced Lina and her family out. Lina’s father is missing (sent to prison), her Mother, and her younger brother are forced into a crowded train car. A train car that carries 46 other people who they are forced to share 2 buckets of water and a bucket of food each day. The characters they meet in this book become major players in this novel including Andrius, a 17 year old pretending to be “feble minded” in order to stay with his Mother, his Mother Mrs. Arvdydas, Ona and her newborn baby, Mrs. Grybas to name a few. They suffer hardships and loss while on the train. They slowly make their way to a Soviet work camp in Siberia. At the camp their job is to dig beats out of the frozen ground while trying to survive in the harsh conditions and with poor nourishment.
At the camp, Lina finds relief from her daily stress, by drawing. She documents things that happen in the camp in hopes she can get word to her father. Through Lina’s narration the reader learns about the lives of the other train occupants. We learn about their hardships, survival and the things they are willing to do in order to survive.
This book is full of heartache, sorrow, pain, suffering, love, strength, love, courage and survival. Although Lina’s story may not be a true account, it does accurately depict how a third of those living in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were killed. This book is full of suffering and it must be read with a box of tissues nearby. At times, I thought “can things possibly get worse?” and Yes, they could. Love and Loss are themes in this book. There are other themes as well but love and loss were the two most powerful ones or me.
This book is beautifully written. It’s an emotional book. It’s a book that I found myself thinking about upon its completion.
I highly recommend.