When fifteen-year-old Lina’s family is exiled from Lithuania by the Soviets, they are forced to travel to remote regions, including Siberia, to work and endure under extreme hunger, cold and inadequate shelter. Maintaining hope is difficult when Lina doesn’t understand why they had to leave and why her father is separated from them. As the story progresses, Lina’s art chronicles the pain and people they live among, and her hidden expressions are essential to her survival and to posterity.
Ruta Sepetys’s first novel is hauntingly beautiful, evident through strong and good characters. Elena, Lina’s mother, maintains strength and hope against all odds. Andrius, one of the only young men to stay with the women and children, shows daring, courage and tenderness. Lina, the narrator, gives honest perspective and the will to survive.
Discussion guides for teens are available here.