Published: February 2nd 2016 by Philomel Books.
Format: Hardcover, 391 pages.
Goodreads Summary: Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.
Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.
As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
Yet not all promises can be kept.
Thoughts: Ruta Sepetys needs to stop stomping on my heart. This story follows a lesser known tragedy in the 1940’s and ups the anti by looking at the event from the perspective of young men and women whose lives have been destroyed by war. Sepetys never ceases to amaze me with the amount of emotion she is able to portray in each one of her novels. This one in particular quickly introduces lovable characters who all have their own motivations and voices. They react realistically and bring the novel alive. The story tests their limits of survival to the brink. The author is truly gifted when it comes to storytelling, but she also manages to keep her stories grounded in historical context which I believe adds to the overall emotional core of the novel.
The novel features short chapters that I believe work to increase the pace of Salt to the Sea. Because the chapters are so short you will have the desire to find out what will happen next. (After all the chapter was only two pages.) Why not continue? The faster storyline parallels the speed of the book’s main event on the Wilhelm Gustloff. Even though the ship is doomed to sink, there is a part of you that hopes everything will work out. – It took this ship less than an hour to sink below the depths of the icy water. The story had me on the edge of my seat and witnessing the war through four very different perspectives was clever on the authors part. It added suspense and a wider understanding of all sides.
“How foolish to believe we are more powerful than the sea or the sky.”
At the end of the story Ruta Sepetys talks about the importance of history and how she hopes that, although the story itself is fictional, the presence of humanity and the shadow of war will inspire readers to learn more about other stories lost in history. I am a huge fan of the Historical Fiction genre, and Ruta Sepetys hasn’t let me down yet. If you are interested I highly recommend you read this one. It is beautiful.