By Ruta Sepetys, 344 pages.
This is a fantastically, touching, poignant, and painful book. Looking back, Lina knew something was wrong in her sheltered, comfortable life in 1941. Her parents were tense, she was chastised for speaking her mind or drawing images of the Russian soldiers occupying her Lithuanian city, and people were acting strange. But nothing prepares her to be arrested in the middle of the night by soldiers, torn from everything she knows, and shoved into a train car like an unwanted animal. With growing horror, Lina begins to realize that this is real, she is being deported from her home, is accused of being a criminal, and no one is coming for her or her family. Worse still, the car her family is on continuously moves north through Siberia, towards the very top of the world where few survive. Desperate to contact her father to let him know that she, her mother, and her brother are alive and refusing to believe that she will never see him again, Lina covertly begins documenting her experience in drawings. How Lina and her family attempt to survive in horrific conditions, both physical and mental, makes for a gripping novel that is difficult to put down.
I knew very little about the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states before reading this book, and immediately after reading it I was prompted to look up more information on the topic. This is a difficult book to read, but an important one, and a reminder that we must actively work to be aware of the things going on in our world, both in the past and currently.