CLEARFIELD – The Books-Sandwiched-In series continued at the Joseph & Elizabeth Shaw Public Library on Wednesday.
Jayme Stonbraker, librarian, educated and entertained the audience with reviews of two books by one of her favorite authors Ruta Sepetys.
The young adult novels Salt of the Sea and Between Shades of Gray are both historical fiction. Stonbraker noted that although they are classified as young adult books, they make for compelling reading for adults, as well.
Both novels have their basis in actual events in central Europe during the 12th century, which most never learned about in history classes.
American-born but of Lithuanian descent, the author first found inspiration for these stories through conversations with relatives when she visited Lithuania.
Stonbraker commented that one of the powers of historical fiction is that while catching readers up in the story, it also exposes them to sometimes unknown pieces of history.
She told the audience that after reading each of these books, she was compelled to learn more about the events on which the stories were based.
No doubt the author would have been pleased by this result. Sepetys is quoted as saying, “Writing historical fiction is like being a detective. Through characters and story, historical statistics become human … and then—the history matters.”
Between Shades of Gray is about a family living in Lithuania in the late 1920’s when Stalin began his purge of the Baltic region. Late one night a knock comes at the door. It is the Russian secret police.
Fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother and little brother are given 20 minutes to pack and are transported in a crowded cattle car to a gulag in Siberia.
The story is of their struggle to survive in the incredibly harsh conditions of the labor camp while retaining their humanity.
Salt to the Sea also has its basis in Lithuanian history. Set in January of 1945, it relates the tale of refugees caught up in the destruction of the final days of World War II.
Fleeing both the Nazis and Russians, their hope is to make their way to the Baltic Sea where refugee ships will take them to safety.
The journey brings together Emilia, Florian and Joanna, who must overcome their distrust to reach their goal.
When they board the Wilhelm Gustloff, a small luxury ship, converted to carry refugees, they believe safety and freedom are theirs. But safety is illusionary in such chaotic times.
In conclusion, Stonbraker commented that many of the events in the two books are based on actual experiences of Lithuanians. But she said they do not often speak of these events.
She quoted the author as saying, “When the survivors are gone, we must not let the truth disappear with them.”
Both Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys are available at Shaw Public Library.
Gwen Crandell, AAUW member, reminded the audience that there will be two more Books-Sandwiched-In events at the library.
On April 5 at 12 p.m., Dr. Fred Ralston will review Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower’s Final Mission by Bret Baier.
The final program will be on April 12 at 12 p.m. when Pam Babick will present Hope for Animals and Their World by Jane Goodall.
Reservations can be made by calling the library at 814-765-3271 prior to 5 p.m. on the Monday before the program.