Lina is a young Lithuanian teenager whose life changes dramatically just before the start of WWII. Her family has been targeted as hostile to the Russians and Stalin's regime. The family is taken away from their home with barely enough time to pack a few things. The story, told from Lina's perspective, documents some of the cruelties that the citizens of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia suffered. They mirror many of the things the Jews were suffering at the same time.
Ms. Sepetys did a tremendous amount of work to create a novel that reflects the events of that time as accurately as possible.
I loved reading the book but was haunted by some of the images left by it. For example, one young woman and her newborn are taken from the hospital immediately after the birth, in fact the mother is still wearing a bloody nightgown. They are thrust onto a crowded truck that is taking the captured Lithuanians to Siberia. The baby is unable to nurse properly and starves. The grief-stricken mother refuses to give up the baby. The smell becomes overwhelming and finally the Russian soldiers force her to give up the body. What happens after that is violent and gruesome.
It is a fascinating book about a fascinating time and details things that have been overshadowed by the horrors inflicted by Hitler on the Jews. I had no idea that those people suffered so much.
My one gripe about the book was that it ended abruptly. I wanted to know more about how they were freed after several years of confinement.
Because of the violence and of other adult situations, I would rate this book PG-16. The language isn't bad and I highly recommend the book but some of the subject matter would, in my opinion, be too much for younger teens.