This is a moving story about the hardships of young people during the Soviet regime. The story centers on the main character of Lina and her family as they are forced into a work camp under the reign of Stalin.
Lina Vilkas and her family are living in comfort in the Soviet Union one moment and forced into a work camp in Siberia the next. They are taken from their home, crowded onto a train, and forced through the Arctic circle, bound for Siberia in order to pick beets in harsh conditions.
At the camp, the Vilkas family learns to get along with many others forced to work there under Stalin's regime. One character of note is Ulyushka, who seems cantankerous while she steals food and demands money. Jonas and Lina cannot understand their mother's kind treatment of this woman. Another important character (especially to Lina) is Andrius, who Lina falls in love with. Perhaps the most important character to note here is officer Kretsky. He is only cruel to Lina when his superiors are observing him. Kretsky soon befriends the whole family.
Lina has been an artist since she was small, and being forced into a work camp is not going to stop her. Lina secretly records each event through her detailed drawings. Eventually, her sketches reach her father (forced to work in a different camp). Through Lina's drawings, her father learns that the family is still alive.