In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina is preparing for art school, first dates, and all that summer has to offer. But one night, the Soviet secret police barge violently into her home, deporting her along with her mother and younger brother. They are being sent to Siberia. Lina's father has been separated from the family and sentenced to death in a prison camp. All is lost.
Lina fights for life, fearless, vowing that if she survives she will honor her family, and the thousands like hers, by documenting their experience in her art and writing. She risks everything to use her art as messages, hoping they will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive.
It is a long and harrowing journey, and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?
This is a heart-wrenching tale of a story that has perhaps has been pushed under the carpet, it is a side of WWII that not many people know about. I for one didn't know much about it, I knew about Soviets from a political view and knew from reading books such as Child 44 that they were paranoid about enemy spies, however I always thought of this after WWII, during the cold war as to speak.
The characters were believable and real, you saw real emotion with them, for example at times Lina was so cold with Andrius, that you were at points just wanting to scream at her. While it is a story of suffering there are plenty of happy moments throughout, you get to learn about the people Lina cares about, you get to hear stories from the others about times gone by. You also get to hear about the opinions of the characters as to what is happening in the war around them as well, I found this interesting as people in the camp thought of Hitler as their savior, that if he was able to defeat the Soviets they may be able to go home. This is interesting because a lot of people would be like why is this any better, surely he would do the same to them as the Russians but these people were desperate and at the time they had, had everything taken away from them in a blink of an eye.
I found the ending really hastily finished, it was not an ending I wanted. Some of the issues weren't resolved, you never got to find out about the other characters if they all survived and what happened to those left behind. A big question in the book was what happened to Lena's father a question that was answered but makes you wonder whether it was actually the truth or another lie told to Lena by the guards.
This book is a must read! It is insightful to a world that still to this day people are scared to address, I found it interesting that the people in the camps were watched religiously after they were released, when most of these people would of only been children when the were first placed in the camps. It is a story of survival, sorrow, misery and hope.