How did you feel about the first section? It is an intense and sobering story, isn't it? But it's still so engaging and well written. I didn't want to know what would happen next because I knew it would be horrible, but I also couldn't stop reading.
One of the most sobering parts of this first section was when Lina's mother saved Jonas by offering a pocket watch to the Soviet guard. At the end of that chapter, Lina says, "Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch." Isn't it sad to think about that exchange in those terms? A watch is such a small thing—it's unimaginable to think that it would be enough to save a whole person. That line and episode stuck with me while I read the rest of the chapters in this section.
What do you think of the characters so far? They are all so brave—Lina's mother especially. She shows no fear in front of the guards. Lina and her brother are courageous, too. I couldn't believe Lina would search the other trains for her father. What did you think of some of the other characters on the train, like the bald man or Ona? The bald man was unlikable, but my heart ached for Ona throughout the train ride. What did you think of Andrius and his mother? I think it helped Lina to have someone her own age on the train.
Did you find yourself feeling curious about the artist, Edvard Munch, since Lina mentioned him so often? Before reading this book, I was only familiar with his painting, The Scream. Check out edvardmunch.org to learn more about him and see more of his paintings.
What did you think of the flashbacks sprinkled throughout the narrative? At first, I was a little confused by them. They took me out of the narrative a little, and I wasn't sure what the information added to the story. I got used to them as I continued reading, though. Did you think they were distracting, or did you enjoy them?
When the group finally gets to the farming area, they endure the humiliation of undressing in front of the guards. Wasn't that scene vivid? My heart was completely broken when I read the scene where the guard touched Lina without her consent. That was incredibly sad and disturbing. And, then, when a guard unexpectedly shot Ona, I thought I was going to be sick. She was such a broken woman, and she definitely didn't deserve the ending she received.
This section ends with the family in Siberia on a beet farm. They are living with an Altaian woman, and she does not seem interested in sharing a space with Lina and her family. Were you curious what Altai looks like? This tourism site has some beautiful pictures. Keep in mind that those photos are intended to make it look much more hospitable than when Lina and her family were there!
What do you think it would be like to play a character like Lina in a movie? Check out the video link below to find out what the actress who plays Lina in the movie thought of the experience. The clip also contains some behind-the-scenes views of the movie. I always think seeing peeks of movies getting made is really interesting.
I hope you were able to get through this section, and I hope you're excited to get to the next section for next week. Make sure to read chapters 29–57 before joining us next week! And, make sure to leave a comment, so I know how you enjoyed the beginning of the book.