Thoughts while re-reading Ruta Sepetys’ ‘I Must Betray You’

If your reading speed is faster than the amount of money in your wallet, then you’ll end up re-reading many of the books on your shelves. I often re-read books by John Hart (The Hush), Kristin Hannah (The Nightingale), Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides), and Ruta Sepetys (Salt to the Sea). I think I’ve read all of these authors’ books multiple times because they are well-written and speak to issues larger than their plots.

As I re-read I Must Betray You, I find myself simultaneously captured by the story it tells and horrified at the life Romanians led under the regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu who led the country until the revolution of 1989. I remember this from news reports, though I had no idea how pervasive the expectation was that “good citizens” were all expected to inform on each other.

As a Libertarian (not a Republican using the term falsely), I think we already live under too much surveillance from highway license plate readers that track who goes where to NSA listening to conversations that are expected to be private. But, as I read I Must Betray You, I think maybe things here are either much better than my worst fears or are heading in the direction of my worst fears.

The New York Times reviewer said the novel is “A gut-wrenching, startling historical thriller about communist Romania and the citizen spy network that devastated a nation, from the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray.”

My thoughts are: (a) Why does a dictator “need” to deny so much freedom to his/her country’s citizens? and (b) How do so many people put up with their government’s atrocities for so long?

From The Publisher

Romania, 1989. Communist regimes are crumbling across Europe. Seventeen-year-old Cristian Florescu dreams of becoming a writer, but Romanians aren’t free to dream; they are bound by rules and force.
 
Amidst the tyrannical dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in a country governed by isolation and fear, Cristian is blackmailed by the secret police to become an informer. He’s left with only two choices: betray everyone and everything he loves—or use his position to creatively undermine the most notoriously evil dictator in Eastern Europe.
 
Cristian risks everything to unmask the truth behind the regime, give voice to fellow Romanians, and expose to the world what is happening in his country. He eagerly joins the revolution to fight for change when the time arrives. But what is the cost of freedom?
 
Master storyteller Ruta Sepetys is back with a historical thriller that examines the little-known history of a nation defined by silence, pain, and the unwavering conviction of the human spirit.

Of course,  I know one thing Cristian Florescu doesn’t know. The dictator and his wife aren’t going to stay in power because a revolution is coming. But even if he knew, could he hold it together like a person in a storm who knows the storm will ultimately move out to sea? Yet, I appreciate his spunk, his beliefs, and the risks he’s willing to take. I think all of that goes beyond what most of us in the U.S. would be willing to do to get back to the kind of government the founders intended.

You may feel totally different things as you read this book. That’s fine. The point is, that in addition to providing us with a good story, Sepetys provides us with a lot to think about in the countries where we live.

Malcolm