Salt to the Sea will make you cry and will haunt you forever, in the best possible way. It’s a master piece, a gripping and beautiful story of hardship, humanity, loss, love and survival during WWII. This book is both heart-breakingly sad and hopeful at the same time, showing both the best and worst of humanity, and with so many wonderful characters you immediately fall in love with and want to rescue from the brutality and horror surrounding them.
The book takes place during the Winter of 1945 when four persons paths converge as they try to escape the horrors and survive the war and all the terrible things they have experienced. Joana is a Lithuanian nurse who struggles with demons for leaving her family behind, Florian is a German with secrets of his own and revenge on his mind, Emilia is a Polish teenager running from the betrayal and abuse she has suffered at the relatives who were supposed to keep her safe, and Alfred is a Nazi soldier with something to prove and a mind that works in a not completely sane way. There is also the sweet “shoe poet” Opi and the boy Klaus and other lovable persons in the small group of refugees travelling together, trying to reach the coast and get passage aboard a ship to safety and freedom.
The four main characters alternate in telling the story from their point of view, thereby sharing their secrets, backgrounds, hopes and dreams with us, if not to each other. The different POVs really add to the story and brings an extra dimension to story, spinning it around in all angles, and revealing the ever-changing dynamics between them. Three of the characters, and the side-characters, are lovely and make your heart go out for them and their hardship. I felt so so much for them and their struggles it kept me on needles to find out what would happen to them all. (The fourth, Alfred, is an idiot. Even if he can justify his actions to himself, no one else can. That’s all I have to say about him.)
The book is based on a true story, the sea evacuation Operation Hannibal and the sinking of the ship Wilhelm Gustloff. This is the deadliest disaster in maritime history, with Soviet torpedoes destroying and sinking the ship carrying nine thousand people, the majority being civilians (of which, about five thousand were children). The losses dwarf the death tolls of famous ships like Titanic, but yet, this disaster is almost unknown. Ruta Sepetys surely will make that change now. You can tell how much research and thought she has put into this story to inform people about this devastating tragedy.
The writing is exquisite in the face of such brutality. The way Ruta Sepetys told the story was just beautiful, how she created this weave through the different POVs and slowly, slowly revealing their secrets and reasons for their actions.
I finished the book crying my eyes out and my heart aching for the characters in the story, as well as the real lives they mirrored. It is a pretty intense book for being YA, but I cannot recommend it enough! This is one of the best books I’ve read and definitely the best historical fiction ever! Just be prepared to cry and to be hit by a tornado of emotions.
Get your own copy:
All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abby Kaitz Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Alice Winn Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira Amanda Woody A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Ban Gilmartin Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cait Nary Cale Dietrich Cara Dee Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare Cat Sebastian C.F. White C.G. Drews Charlie Adhara Charli Meadows Chasten Buttigieg Chris Bedell Christina Lauren Christina Lee Ciara Smyth Claerie Kavanaugh Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Courtney Kae Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Dallas Smith Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton D.N. Bryn Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E.L. Massey E. Lockhart Emery Lee Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens F.T. Lukens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hannah Grace Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving H.S. Valley Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacob Gelman Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson James L. Sutter Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jen Bailey Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé Kathy Anderson K.A. Tucker KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Lauren Shippen Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Lex Croucher Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr M.A. Wardell Melanie Munton Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nathaniel Shea Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Nyla K. Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rachel Reid Racquel Marie Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Taylor Jenkins Reid Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Tracy Deonn Tucker Shaw Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Wesley Chu Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez