Lina Vilkas lived quite happily with her father, mother and 10 year old brother, Jonas, in the city of Kaunas, Lithuania. It was June 1941 and Lina was looking forward to attending a summer art program where she would study with some of the greatest artists in Europe. Then on the evening of June 14, Soviet police entered the Vilkas home and gave them 20 minutes to gather belongings and leave their comfortable home. They were eventually put into train cars that took them to Siberia. Many of the people who were crammed into those cars didn't survive. Those who did were imprisoned for as many as 15 years.
This story takes us along on Lina's journey to Siberia. It is a journey filled with confusion, fear, anger, deplorable living conditions, and death. However, the underlying foundation of their lives is built on love and hope. These two pillars of faith keep the reader holding on throughout the book. The story is beautiful and horrifying all at the same time. It takes place at a time in history that most eyes of the world were focused on Hitler and his actions in Germany. The people of 3 small Baltic countries were, for the most part, ignored as the Soviet Union overtook them. I was unfamiliar with this part of the history of World War II and found it deeply tragic and moving. This is not an easy book to read because it doesn't spare us from the horror of life for the prisoners. However, it is also not an easy book to put down once you start it. I read it in less than 24 hours and resented anything that interfered. Books of this kind are so important to help generations to come understand what happened and prevent it from ever happening again. Congratulations Ms. Sepetys on writing a wonderful book.