Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

by Ruta Sepetys

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Overview

New York Times Bestseller and winner of the Carnegie Medal! "Masterfully crafted"The Wall Street Journal

For readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, Ruta Sepetys returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Told in alternating points of view and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson's Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein's Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloffthe greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.

Praise for Salt to the Sea:

Featured on NPR's Morning Edition  ♦  "Superlative...masterfully crafted...[a] powerful work of historical fiction."—The Wall Street Journal  ♦  "[Sepetys is] a master of YA fiction…she once again anchors a panoramic view of epic tragedy in perspectives that feel deeply textured and immediate."—Entertainment Weekly  ♦  "Riveting...powerful...haunting."—The Washington Post  ♦ "Compelling for both adult and teenage readers."—New York Times Book Review  ♦  "Intimate, extraordinary, artfully crafted...brilliant."—Shelf Awareness  ♦  "Historical fiction at its very, very best."—The Globe and Mail  ♦  "[H]aunting, heartbreaking, hopeful and altogether gorgeous...one of the best young-adult novels to appear in a very long time."—Salt Lake Tribune  ♦  *"This haunting gem of a novel begs to be remembered."—Booklist  ♦  *"Artfully told and sensitively crafted...will leave readers weeping."—School Library Journal  ♦  A PW and SLJ 2016 Book of the Year

Praise for Between Shades of Gray:
A New York Times Notable Book  ♦  A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book  ♦  A PWSLJ, Booklist, and Kirkus Best Book  ♦  iTunes 2011 Rewind Best Teen Novel  ♦  A Carnegie Medal and William C. Morris Finalist  ♦  A New York Times and International Bestseller  ♦  "Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both."—The Washington Post  ♦  *"[A]n important book that deserves the widest possible readership."—Booklist

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698172623
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 02/02/2016
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 8,192
Lexile: HL560L (what's this?)
File size: 7 MB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Ruta Sepetys (www.rutasepetys.com) is an internationally acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction published in over sixty countries and forty languages. Sepetys is considered a "crossover" novelist, as her books are read by both teens and adults worldwide. Her novels Between Shades of Gray, Out of the Easy, and Salt to the Sea have won or been shortlisted for more than forty book prizes, and are included on more than sixty state award lists. Between Shades of Gray was adapted into the film Ashes in the Snow, and her other novels are currently in development for TV and film. Winner of the Carnegie Medal, Ruta is passionate about the power of history and literature to foster global awareness and connectivity. She has presented to NATO, to the European Parliament, in the United States Capitol, and at embassies worldwide. Ruta was born and raised in Michigan and now lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @RutaSepetys and Instagram @RutaSepetysAuthor.

Read an Excerpt

joana

Guilt is a hunter. 
My conscience mocked me, picking fights like a petulant child.
It’s all your fault, the voice whispered.
I quickened my pace and caught up with our small group. The Germans would march us off the field road if they found us. Roads were reserved for the military. Evacuation orders hadn’t been issued and anyone fleeing East Prussia was branded a deserter. But what did that matter? I became a deserter four years ago, when I fled from Lithuania.
Lithuania.
I had left in 1941. What was happening at home? Were the dreadful things whispered in the streets true?
We approached a mound on the side of the road. The small boy in front of me whimpered and pointed. He had joined us two days prior, just wandered out of the forest alone and quietly began following us.
“Hello, little one. How old are you?” I had asked.
“Six,” he replied.
“Who are you traveling with?”
He paused and dropped his head. “My Omi.”
I turned toward the woods to see if his grandmother had emerged. “Where is your Omi now?” I asked.
The wandering boy looked up at me, his pale eyes wide. “She didn’t wake up.”
So the little boy traveled with us, often drifting just slightly ahead or behind. And now he stood, pointing to a flap of dark wool beneath a meringue of snow.
I waved the group onward and when everyone advanced I ran to the snow-covered heap. The wind lifted a layer of icy flakes revealing the dead blue face of a woman, probably in her twenties. Her mouth and eyes were hinged open, fixed in fear. I dug through her iced pockets, but they had already been picked. In the lining of her jacket I found her identification papers. I stuffed them in my coat to pass on to the Red Cross and dragged her body off the road and into the field. She was dead, frozen solid, but the thought of tanks rolling over her was more than I could bear.
I ran back to the road and our group. The wandering boy stood in the center of the path, snow falling all around him.
“She didn’t wake up either?” he asked quietly.
I shook my head and took his mittened hand in mine.
And then we both heard it in the distance.
Bang.
 
 
florian

Fate is a hunter.
Engines buzzed in a swarm above. Der Schwarze Tod, “the Black Death,” they called them. I hid beneath the trees. The planes weren’t visible, but I felt them. Close. Trapped by darkness both ahead and behind, I weighed my options. An explosion detonated and death crept closer, curling around me in fingers of smoke.
I ran.
My legs churned, sluggish, disconnected from my racing mind. I willed them to move, but my conscience noosed around my ankles and pulled down hard.
“You are a talented young man, Florian.” That’s what Mother had said.
“You are Prussian. Make your own decisions, son,” said my father.
Would he have approved of my decisions, of the secrets I now carried across my back? Amidst this war between Hitler and Stalin, would Mother still consider me talented, or criminal?
The Soviets would kill me. But how would they torture me first? The Nazis would kill me, but only if they uncovered the plan. How long would it remain a secret? The questions propelled me forward, whipping through the cold forest, dodging branches. I clutched my side with one hand, my pistol with the other. The pain surged with each breath and step, releasing warm blood out of the angry wound.
The sound of the engines faded. I had been on the run for days and my mind felt as weak as my legs. The hunter preyed on the fatigued and weary. I had to rest. The pain slowed me to a jog and finally a walk. Through the dense trees in the forest I spied branches hiding an old potato cellar. I jumped in.
Bang.
 
 
emilia

Shame is a hunter.
I would rest a moment. I had a moment, didn’t I? I slid across the cold, hard earth toward the back of the cave. The ground quivered. Soldiers were close. I had to move but felt so tired. It was a good idea to put branches over the mouth of the forest cellar. Wasn’t it? No one would trek this far off the road. Would they?
I pulled the pink woolen cap down over my ears and tugged my coat closed near my throat. Despite my bundled layers, January’s teeth bit sharp. My fingers had lost all feeling. Pieces of my hair, frozen crisp to my collar, tore as I turned my head. So I thought of August.
My eyes dropped closed.
And then they opened.
A Russian soldier was there.
He leaned over me with a light, poking my shoulder with his pistol.
I jumped, frantically pushing myself back.
“Fräulein.” He grinned, pleased that I was alive. “Komme, Fräulein. How old are you?”
“Fifteen,” I whispered. “Please, I’m not German. Nicht Deutsche.”
He didn’t listen, didn’t understand, or didn’t care. He pointed his gun at me and yanked at my ankle. “Shh, Fräulein.” He lodged the gun under the bone of my chin.
I pleaded. I put my hands across my stomach and begged.
He moved forward.
No. This would not happen. I turned my head. “Shoot me, soldier. Please.”
Bang.
 
 
alfred

Fear is a hunter.
But brave warriors, we brush away fear with a flick of the wrist. We laugh in the face of fear, kick it like a stone across the street. Yes, Hannelore, I compose these letters in my mind first, as I cannot abandon my men as often as I think of you.
You would be proud of your watchful companion, sailor Alfred Frick. Today I saved a young woman from falling into the sea. It was nothing really, but she was so grateful she clung to me, not wanting to let go.
“Thank you, sailor.” Her warm whisper lingered in my ear. She was quite pretty and smelled like fresh eggs, but there have been many grateful and pretty girls. Oh, do not be concerned. You and your red sweater are foremost in my thoughts. How fondly, how incessantly, I think of my Hannelore and red-sweater days.
I’m relieved you are not here to see this. Your sugared heart could not bear the treacherous circumstances here in the port of Gotenhafen. At this very moment, I am guarding dangerous explosives. I am serving Germany well. Only seventeen, yet carrying more valor than those twice my years. There is talk of an honor ceremony but I’m too busy fighting for the Führer to accept honors. Honors are for the dead, I’ve told them. We must fight while we are alive!
Yes, Hannelore, I shall prove to all of Germany. There is indeed a hero inside of me.
Bang.
I abandoned my mental letter and crouched in the supply closet, hoping no one would find me. I did not want to go outside. 
 
 
florian

I stood in the forest cellar, my gun fixed on the dead Russian. The back of his head had departed from his skull. I rolled him off the woman.
She wasn’t a woman. She was a girl in a pink woolen cap. And she had fainted.
I scavenged through the Russian’s frozen pockets and took cigarettes, a flask, a large sausage wrapped in paper, his gun, and ammunition. He wore two watches on each wrist, trophies collected from his victims. I didn’t touch them.
Crouching near the corner of the cellar, I scanned the cold chamber for signs of food but saw none. I put the ammunition in my pack, careful not to disturb the small box wrapped in a cloth. The box. How could something so small hold such power? Wars had been waged over less. Was I really willing to die for it? I gnawed at the dried sausage, savoring the saliva it produced.
The ground vibrated slightly.
This Russian wasn’t alone. There would be more. I had to move.
I turned the top on the soldier’s flask and raised it to my nose. Vodka. I opened my coat, then my shirt, and poured the alcohol down my side. The intensity of the pain produced a flash in front of my eyes. My ruptured flesh fought back, twisting and pulsing. I took a breath, bit back a yell, and tortured the gash with the remainder of the alcohol.
The girl stirred in the dirt. Her head snapped away from the dead Russian. Her eyes scanned the gun at my feet and the flask in my hand. She sat up, blinking. Her pink hat slid from her head and fell silently into the dirt. The side of her coat was streaked with blood. She reached into her pocket.
I threw down the flask and grabbed the gun.
She opened her mouth and spoke.
Polish.
 
 
emilia

The Russian soldier stared at me, mouth open, eyes empty.
Dead.
What had happened?
Crouching in the corner was a young man dressed in civilian clothes. His coat and shirt were unfastened, his skin bloodied and bruised to a deep purple. He held a gun. Was he going to shoot me? No, he had killed the Russian. He had saved me.
“Are you okay?” I asked, barely recognizing my own voice. His face twisted at the sound of my words.
He was German.
I was Polish.
He would want nothing to do with me. Adolf Hitler had declared that Polish people were subhuman. We were to be destroyed so the Germans could have the land they needed for their empire. Hitler said Germans were superior and would not live among Poles. We were not Germanizable. But our soil was.
I pulled a potato from my pocket and held it out to him. “Thank you.”
The dirt pulsed slightly. How much time had passed? “We have to go,” I told him.
I tried to use my best German. In my head the sentences were intact, but I wasn’t sure they came out that way. Sometimes when I spoke German people laughed at me and then I knew my words were wrong. I lowered my arm and saw my sleeve, splattered with Russian blood. Would this ever end? Tears stirred inside of me. I did not want to cry.
The German stared at me, a combination of fatigue and frustration. But I understood.
His eyes on the potato said, Emilia, I’m hungry.
The dried blood on his shirt said, Emilia, I’m injured.
But the way he clutched his pack told me the most.
Emilia, don’t touch this.
 
 
joana

We trudged farther down the narrow road. Fifteen refugees. The sun had finally surrendered and the temperature followed. A blind girl ahead of me, Ingrid, held a rope tethered to a horse-drawn cart. I had my sight, but we shared a handicap: we both walked into a dark corridor of combat, with no view of what lay ahead. Perhaps her lost vision was a gift. The blind girl could hear and smell things that the rest of us couldn’t.
Did she hear the last gasp of the old man as he slipped under the wheels of a cart several kilometers back? Did she taste coins in her mouth when she walked over the fresh blood in the snow?
“Heartbreaking. They killed her,” said a voice behind me. It was the old shoemaker. I stopped and allowed him to catch up. “The frozen woman back there,” he continued. “Her shoes killed her. I keep telling them, but they don’t listen. Poorly made shoes will torture your feet, inhibit your progress. Then you will stop.” He squeezed my arm. His soft red face peered out from beneath his hat. “And then you will die,” he whispered.
The old man spoke of nothing but shoes. He spoke of them with such love and emotion that a woman in our group had crowned him “the shoe poet.” The woman disappeared a day later but the nickname survived.
“The shoes always tell the story,” said the shoe poet.
“Not always,” I countered.
“Yes, always. Your boots, they are expensive, well made. That tells me that you come from a wealthy family. But the style is one made for an older woman. That tells me they probably belonged to your mother. A mother sacrificed her boots for her daughter. That tells me you are loved, my dear. And your mother is not here, so that tells me that you are sad, my dear. The shoes tell the story.”
I paused in the center of the frozen road and watched the stubby old cobbler shuffle ahead of me. The shoe poet was right. Mother had sacrificed for me. When we fled from Lithuania she rushed me to Insterburg and, through a friend, arranged for me to work in the hospital. That was four years ago. Where was Mother now?
I thought of the countless refugees trekking toward freedom. How many millions of people had lost their home and family during the war? I had agreed with Mother to look to the future, but secretly I dreamed of returning to the past. Had anyone heard from my father or brother?
The blind girl put her face to the sky and raised her arm in signal.
And then I heard them.
Planes.
 
 
florian

We had barely crawled out of the potato cellar when the Polish girl began to cry. She knew I was going to leave her.
I had no choice. She would slow me down.
Hitler aimed to destroy all Poles. They were Slavic, branded inferior. My father said the Nazis had killed millions of Poles. Polish intellectuals were savagely executed in public. Hitler set up extermination camps in German-occupied Poland, filtering the blood of innocent Jews into the Polish soil.
Hitler was a coward. That had been one thing Father and I agreed upon.
Proszę . . . bitte,” she begged, alternating between Polish and broken German.
I couldn’t stand to look at her, at the streaks of dead Russian splattered down her sleeve. I started to walk away, her sobs flapping behind me.
“Wait. Please,” she called out.
The sound of her crying was painfully familiar. It had the exact tone of my younger sister, Anni, and the sobs I heard through the hallway the day Mother took her last breath.
Anni. Where was she? Was she too in some dark forest hole with a gun to her head?
A pain ripped through my side, forcing me to stop. The girl’s feet quickly approached. I resumed walking.
“Thank you,” she chirped from behind.
The sun disappeared and the cold tightened its fist. My calculations told me that I needed to walk another two kilometers west before stopping for the night. There was a better chance of finding shelter along a field road, but also a better chance of running into troops. It was wiser to continue along the edge of the forest.
The girl heard them before I did. She grabbed my arm. The buzzing of aircraft engines surged fast and close from behind. The Russians were targeting German ground troops nearby. Were they in front of us or beside us?
The bombs began falling. With each explosion, every bone in my body vibrated and hammered, clanging violently against the bell tower that was my flesh. The sound of anti-aircraft fire rang through the sky, answering the initial blasts.
The girl tried to pull me onward.
I shoved her away. “Run!”
She shook her head, pointed forward, and awkwardly tried to pull me through the snow. I wanted to run, forget about her, leave her in the forest. But then I saw the droplets of blood in the snow coming from beneath her bulky coat.
And I could not.

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Salt to the Sea 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
JessabellaReviews More than 1 year ago
SALT TO THE SEA IS A PHENOMENAL STORY and it bubbles over with emotional depth. Ruta Sepetys has this incredible ability to make her characters feel like living, breathing people. Not only the main four, but there were also so many secondary characters that I fell in love with. Even if there was one character that I personally didn't agree with or like, I still felt empathy towards. Hell, I am still thinking about these characters in my day-to-day life, over a month after reading Salt to the Sea. Her writing is just so gorgeous, and it makes you truly feel as if you are taking this journey to survive with each of the four main characters. Salt to the Sea is written in such a way where each of the four MC's alternate telling the story from chapter to chapter in first person narration. This made the story so real and engaging, and I feel that it was a brilliant writing choice. Even though this is labeled as historical fiction, and EXTREMELY well researched historical fiction at that, it reads more like an historical mystery, thriller, romance combination. I was literally jumping out of my chair during parts of the book and crying my eyes out at others; while simultaneously hoping a romance would blossom between two of the characters and praying for a miracle ending at the same time. Of course we already know how this story ends. We know that over 9,000 souls lost their lives on the Wilhelm Gustloff. I knew that going into this book, it was going to end in tragedy, but Ruta has a way of bringing such light, love, and hope into what was one of the most devastating and horrific disasters in maritime history. Now, I'm not spoiling anything by saying that, as the ship that was supposed to carry over 10,000 people to safety was hit by Russian torpedoes and still sits at the bottom of the Baltic sea today. Still, there is so much that you don't know. Do the main characters all perish? Do they all find a way to survive? You will also learn when you read this book, that each character has secrets that they are hiding from themselves or others. I was actually quite surprised to find out what some of those secrets ended up being. I guess you will just have to read the book to find out! This is a story that I would actually re-read, and I never, ever re-read books. At the end of the author's note, Ruta talks about how we as readers give a voice to the actual people who died just trying to outrun a war. That we can help to keep their memories alive, and bring light to this terribly neglected tragedy of World War II. I hope that by writing this, and encouraging everyone I know to pick up this book, that I am helping to do that in some small way. Trust me when I say that it doesn't matter how old you are, whether you like historical fiction or not, this story will grab your heart and tear it out of your chest. I dare you to try not to shed a tear while reading this book, while at the same time being in awe of the courage and strength you will find in these pages. In this day and age, we NEED books like this more than ever. Books that show us what happens when we loose sight of the thing that truly makes us human...LOVE. Love for other people regardless of how different from us they may be. This book really forces you think about what is TRULY important in life and what is just salt to the sea...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Plot is detailed, heart wrenching, and full of action. You will be guarenteed to fall in love with each of the characters. Character development is well thought out, and the love story is executed perfectly. Hold on to that box of Kleenex for the end though...you'll need it. LOVE THIS BOOK! READ IT IN A DAY!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading the first few pages, I was already hooked. The plot and language are so compelling, I had trouble putting the book down. The imagery and descriptions are vivid. The chapters switched between 4 characters' perspectives, flowing together seamlessly. I've read few books with stronger character development. I fell in love with both major and minor characters, becoming attached to them. I felt such a complex variety of feelings while reading; a book that can touch my heart so deeply deserves a raving review. Ruta has become one of my favorite authors.
MalcolmCampbell More than 1 year ago
Ruta Sepetys’ superb young adult novel traces the flight of Joana (Lithuanian), Florian (Prussian), Emilia (Polish) and Alfred (German) from the advancing Soviet army. Alfred is a sailor sent to the port of Gotenhafen for duty on board the Wilhelm Gustloff to help evacuate those escaping from the Soviet advance. Joana, Florian, and Emilia have a more difficult trek to Gotenhafen because they are also running from the German army. The story is told in one-to-three-page chapters from the viewpoints of the four major characters. By the end of the novel, readers know each of these characters like family for they will have heard an unforgettable story of brutality, death, guilt, fate, shame and fear from every angle that matters. Joana is a compassionate nurse, Emilia is a pregnant teenager, Florian is a young man with secrets, and Alfred wants to receive a medal for small, self-important deeds. And then there are Eva, who is tall and gruff; Heinz, a cobbler who knows people by their shoes; Ingrid, a blind girl who sees better than many, and the other seemingly doomed but hopeful souls along the way. Sepetys’ great success with this novel comes from many factors over and above her research. The story, including the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, is told in pointed, straightforward, often graphic language with well-chosen details and no authorial editorializing or sentimentality. If the refugees reach the ships in Gotenhafen, they may not be given a boarding pass: the Germans can easily find reasons for and against each of the characters. And, the subplot of secrets ultimately linking Joana, Florian and Alfred adds tension. It’s difficult to imagine a more perfect story about the tragedy of civilians in wartime or a better historical introduction to the plight of the Lithuanian, Prussian, Polish and German refugees caught between the opposing, but equally brutal World War II regimes of Hitler and Stalin. "Salt to the Sea" is the novel no reader will forget.
SecondRunReviews More than 1 year ago
Wow. Just one word. Wow. Salt to the Sea was more emotional than I could have imagined. Telling the story of a little known World War II Maritime disaster involving the Wilhelm Gustloff. Expertly told from 5 different points of view Septeys gives each character a unique voice and a unique story. For 4 of the 5 stories, their escape from the Nazis may mean life and freedom. For me, the 5th character was one of the few stories I’ve experienced from a Nazi soldier’s point of view and it chilled me to the bone. Salt to the Sea shines as each character shares their backstory and their observations about the other narrators. Their short journey binds them together in an unexpected way and while the characters presented are fiction, their journeys provide a wonderful lesson about caring for others and helping those who are in need even when you are in need. Audiobook readers will be pleased to know that each character has his or her own narrator. This added to the intimacy of the story being told. It feels like each character was sitting next to you sharing some of their deepest darkest secrets. As is often the case when I read historical fiction, I will, at some point, head out to the Internet and start doing my own research. Salt to the Sea had me entranced, I didn’t do any outside research until after the novel was done as I didn’t want to be spoiled. There was a pivotal point in the novel when I realized there was only one way the story could end and I was crushed, but I kept listening, hoping there would be happiness when the story finally came to a close. World War II is one of my favorite time periods to read about. Finding unique, untold stories from this era is always a treat for me and Salt to the Sea fits the bill. Sometimes the best stories are found on the losing side of a battle and Salt to the Sea tells part of that story in way that allows the reader to connect with an otherwise silent part of history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easily one of my top favorite novels. Like Between Shades of Gray, this novel will keep you captive within its pages from front to cover! I couldn't put it down. So so so good. Highly recommend it! If you loved Between Shades of Gray, you'll love this novel, too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You must read this unknown story of tragedy involving more innocents during the second world War .
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am grateful to have found this. Historical fiction provides meaning to the relentless passage of time and personal insights into the events shaping mankind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading "Between Shades of Gray", Because my husband escaped from Lithuania in 1944, I knew this would be another outstanding book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldnt put it down.
ReadingwithErin More than 1 year ago
MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS "Joana still had her mother. Reuniting with her mother was her motivation. She would slay dragons to get to her. Mother was anchor. Mother was comfort. Mother was home. ” If you’ve been following me for a while then you’ll know that I have loved Sepetys other books, and she is an auto-read author for me at this point. Every one of her stories is accurate to the time period and the way she writes the characters makes you feel like your right there with them. We follow four teenagers Florian – A “german” who is caring a secret, a secret that could not only get him killed but those he is now traveling with as well. Emilia – A young girl who is lost, parentless, pregnant, and terrified of most men in general now. Joana – A nurse who is taking care of Ingrid, the shoe poet, Eva, and the wandering child (Klaus). Not only does she feel responsible for these four people, but she also wants to help as many others as possible and get back to her mother to try and right the wrong she feels she has done that caused her extended family to be sent away by Stalin’s soldiers. Alfred – A German Sailor who lives more in his head than in real life. Each chapter is only a few pages long, and as we get towards the end of the book it gets to just a few sentences as we switch back and forth between the characters. I got so attached to most of these characters ( I found Alfred’s part a little annoying with his mental letters he was constantly writing). By the time they got on the boat and you could tell that the end was near I didn’t want the story to end, I didn’t want the boat to leave port, and when the torpedo’s hit my heart broke for all of the people on-board. “The Wilhelm Gustloff was pregnant with lost souls conceived of war. They would crowd into her belly and she would give birth to their freedom.” The water was freezing, and there weren’t enough life boats (only 12) once again, and the ones that were on board weren’t filled to capacity due to panic. When the few survivors were picked up surprisingly considering they were surrounded by Russian Submarines, they were taken to safety, and towards the start of their new lives. I also really loved the connection this book had with Between Shades of Gray with Joana being Lina’s cousin. If anyone knows of any other books about this tragedy or Lithuanian’s during the WWII please let me know. I'll leave you with, the authors note from the acknowledgement Every nation has hidden history, countless stories preserved only by those who experienced them. Stories of war are often read and discussed worldwide by readers whose nations stood on opposite sides during battle. History divided us, but through reading we can be united in story, study, and remembrance. Books join us together as a global reading community, but more important, a global human community striving to learn from the past. What determines how we remember history and which elements are preserved and penetrate the collective consciousness? If historical novels stir your interest, pursue the facts, the history, memoirs, and personal testimonies available. These are the shoulders that historical fiction sits upon. When the survivors are gone we must not let the truth disappear with them. Please, give them a voice. This is why I love Historical Fiction and Ruta Sepetys books, she always reminds you that these books are based on real stories.
Caitie_F More than 1 year ago
Wow. Wow. Wow. I didn't think there would ever be a book as good or as powerful as BETWEEN SHADES OF GREY, but this one is. Sepetys writes again about a part of WWII history that has been ignored and it is heart-breaking, but beautifully done. The writing is stunning, the characters rare so well-developed, and every page is a wonder. Another brilliant book from one of my favorite authors.
buttermybooks More than 1 year ago
Have you ever read a book so great that you immediately buy every other book that the author has ever written? WELCOME TO MY LIFE AFTER FINISHING SALT TO THE SEA. I had intended to buddy read this book with a few of my friends who had also gotten early copies of it but after reading the first chapter, I literally could not put it down. Before I knew it, I was 150 pages in with no signs of stopping or letting my friends catch up. The story is told from the POV of 4 different teenagers, offering up each persons heartache on a platter; allowing you to become attached to *most* of them and learning to love their companions as well. What initially drew me to this story is that it takes place during WWII which is a time period that I often study. Even as someone who is familiar with the horrors of this particular war, I was unprepared for the feelings this book evoked. The stories of Florian, Emilia, Joana, and Alfred are not uncommon during this grim time period and realizing that something similar to what I was reading had happened to so many innocent people really leveled me. Ruta shines a light on an event in history that goes largely unrecognized and does it in a way that felt well researched but not overly laden with information. Salt To The Sea is a forever book; so perfectly intriguing that it will stay with me forever. Ruta knocked it out of the park in every way imaginable with this one… it truly grabs you by the heartstrings and doesn’t let you go until its coup de grâce. A must read. *I was provided a copy of this book by Penguin Teen in exchange for an honest review **IM SORRY I TRIED TO REMAIN CALM WHILE WRITING THIS REVIEW BUT HONESTLY I COULDNT. I CRIED SO MUCH AND I NEED EVERY SINGLE PERSON TO READ THIS BOOK. ITS PERFECT AND HEARTBREAKING IN ALL THE BEST WAYS. PLEASE, PLEASE READ THIS BOOK.
BookyMcReady More than 1 year ago
I keep saying I don’t usually read WWII fiction, but here is the second in a month. I haven’t read Ruta Sepetys’s other work, but this one was incredible. It could be the author’s more personal connection to the events she writes about, but regardless she has a gift. Four strangers meet trying to escape Germany in 1945, trying to book passage on the Wilhelm Gustloff, and trying to make sense of a world gone mad. During my read-through, I could feel the cold and hear the crack of ice. The book gives enough historical setting and facts to set the scene, but lets the characters and their stories take the lead. We see the good and the bad in humanity, and of course most are in-between. This story is tragically beautiful, which I’m sure won’t come as a surprise to most. I’m done with WWII fiction for the next few months at least, but I’m so grateful the ones I tried were worthwhile and impactful.
Anonymous 5 days ago
Great story... didnt know of this event
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Elyse Byrd B1/2 Dec. 11. 2018. Book Review Final Draft Ruta Sepetys’ Salt to the Sea (2016), was an incredibly fast-paced book, perfect for young adult and adult readers. This novel adds in the horrors civilians faced in World War II. Sepetys writing, clear and precise, uses the best word choice and sentence fluency. Sepetys writing earned her forty book prizes with over fifty countries and thirty six languages. Salt to the Sea, landed on the New York Times bestseller list and the international bestseller list. I read tons of historical fiction and nonfiction books about the Holocaust and World War II, but only a few of them are this clear and thoughtful. The reader remains attached to these characters throughout the book and doesn’t want to let go, creating an unbreakable bond. Sepetys four main characters include Emilia, a polish girl given a massive burden, given not by choice, her secret pushes you to read further and further. Florian, a Prussian with a unique story being carefully unravelled throughout the book. Alfred, a Nazi loving fool who will do anything for his ‘father country’. Joana, a nurse who feels the guilt of war, the memories we wish we could change, yet the hope inside her to cure the world keeps everyone reading. Typically, I don’t go back and reread a novel, but Sepetys detail made me want to read it a hundred times over. The plot includes millions of twists and turns through the entire book, making the reader want to skip dinner to read this novel. Sepetys massive research shines in Salt to the Sea. The time and energy with a wide variety of sources all of them either researchers or those were on board the ship, Wilhelm Gustloff. Some of these people include Leigh Bishop, his job, diving for sunken ships and photography, He has gone down to the Wilhelm Gustloff to take photos many times. Cathryn J. Prince, an author, and journalist about World War II and Holocaust, she has written a several books including Death in the Baltic and another nonfiction book about the Wilhelm Gustloff. Edward Petruskevich, the Curator of the Wilhelm Gustloff Online Museum, has collected various assortment of artifacts from the Wilhelm Gustloff . Mara Lipacis, a Wilhelm Gustloff survivor, although only six when she was aboard she still remembers a wealth of information about when it sank. Michal Rybicki, a Diver, and architect was one of the first to go and investigate the Wilhelm Gustloff. Michal Rybicki was the last person mentioned in her book, but I am positive there are many more. All of Sepetys research paid off in the end with a 5 stars out of 5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a compelling story that draws you in immediately and will not let go even after you finish reading it. I can’t wait for my book group discussion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this down. Even though it was historical fiction and did not involve real people in the story the basis was true and I felt as though I was living this with the characters.
JLeighG More than 1 year ago
Salt to the Sea brings to light such a tragic historical event that’s not talked about. Every character plays a big role in moving the plot forward and their backstories are tragic but accurate to the setting. I love how all four main characters view the war differently because of their own status. It’s well-done and well-written. Ruta Sepetys has a way with characters and bringing to life historical plots that are less-known in the world. I look forward to reading more of her work.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic book! Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written and touching story!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great book! It is one of my favorites!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MamaHendo More than 1 year ago
This historical fiction book is written from four different characters POV in Germany during World War II. Joana, Florian and Emilia are attempting to evacuate Germany ahead of the Red Army’s invasion and Alfred is a loyal member of Hilter’s Kriegsmarine. The four characters storyline’s intersect when they come upon their ultimate destination, the ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff. I have read many historical fiction books about this time period and never came across one quiet like this. The author doesn’t hold back and the story at times is quiet painful but the characters bravery and desire to survive keeps you wanting more. Although this story is fiction you find it easy to imagine that this could easily be a story built on someone’s truth from that time. Definitely would recommend for any historical fiction lover.