Expected publication: February 9, 2016
Publisher: Philomel Books an imprint of Penguin Random House
The author of Between Shades of Gray returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.
In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them 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 toward safety.
Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
Told in alternating points of view, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff—the 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 can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.
Perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson's critically acclaimed #1 New York Times bestseller Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein's Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity.
Quote take from an uncorrected proof: "I raised my face to the sun. My war had been so long, my winter so cold. But I had finally made it home. And for the first time in a long time, I was not afraid."
Amazing! One of those books that you just can't put down. The narrative is gripping and the overall story is filled with heroic moments during a time of war and devastation.
Salt to the Sea takes place in 1945, which was four years after Germany invaded Russia during World War II. The war is drawing to a close and many refugees are fleeing to the coast to board the Wilhelm-Gustloff in hopes of finding freedom. More than ten thousand people board the Gustloff with a capacity of less that fifteen hundred and only twenty-two lifeboats available. When a Russian submarine attacks the ship, the people aboard see their only hope for freedom sink into the sea.
At a time when three young adults are fighting to survive, they reach within themselves to prove how humanity can prevail. My heart broke for Joana, Emilia and Florian as I got to know them through their powerful voices. Joana is a nurse that fled Lithuania in 1941. Throughout the novel, you see her strength shine during times of uncertainty and horror. Florian is an apprentice tasked to restore and preserve valuable pieces of art for Hitler, when he comes across the Amber Rose and his employer’s true intentions. He devises a plan for revenge and flees his post. Emilia is a Polish girl targeted by the Germans who is desparate to hide her secret. These three characters come together at a time of desperation and devastation. Each carry a secret, but they learn to rely on each other as they journey toward freedom.
There were so many powerful moments in this book that added to the profound experience of learning about this time in history that is not well-known. Before this, I didn’t know this tragic event occurred and I wonder why it’s been hidden in the history books. I marveled at Ruta Sepetys’s ability to created a vivid and dramatic account through short bursts of narrative among the main characters.
Overall, Salt to the Sea is one of those novels that deserves attention and praise. For avid fans of historical fiction that’s both gripping and emotional, you won’t go wrong diving into this novel.
Lastly, I’m so grateful to Penguin Publishers who offered me an uncorrected proof that doesn't even have art cover quite yet. This story captured my heart and attention for the entire journey.