Title: Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Synopsis: 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.
Huge thank you to Razorbill Canada for this ARC!
Confession time: this book made me sob in public. I was reading it on the bus on my way to work and it just left me an emotional train wreck. Here’s the thing about this book: it’s based off of real historical events, and knowing that means you’re in for a trip to sadtown.
I have yet to read Ruta Sepetys’ other novels, but I heard from a trusted friend that she has a powerful way of weaving a story together and giving the reader all the information possible without being too revealing. Salt to the Sea is the story of refugees attempting to survive during the Nazi regime, and the book offers four very different perspectives: a nurse, an expected teen mother, a fugitive, and a Nazi solider. Each perspective offers unique challenges for each character, as well as how each are interconnected.
This book is depressing, but heart felt. You get a large sense of who these characters are and their struggles during a time where it was hard to have any sense of individuality. I spent a lot of the novel cheer for Florian, and wanting Alfred to get what he deserves. He made me feel so much anger, and yet I could understand him because he seemed so brainwashed into thinking that he was so big hero. Emilia and Joana were also fantastically written, and I felt for them so much throughout the story. Sepetys’ writing is just so emotionally engaging, and it really makes the reader feel as though they are involved in it’s telling.
This may be my first Ruta Sepetys’ novel, but this will definitely not be my last (given that I own Between Shades of Grey and just need to read it). She makes a genre that I generally don’t reach for so accessible and emotional gripping that I will seriously read anything she writes.
So wow. Brb going and getting all of Sepetys’ books and binge reading them.
I almost didn’t read this book you guys. I grabbed it at ALAMW and then when I got home it was sorted into my “maybe” pile. I don’t know why I put it in my TBR for this month other than I was just in the mood for something different. I don’t generally seek out historical fiction, and I got over reading Holocaust stories in middle school when we had to read that one really sad popular book that they make all kids read to learn about WWII? Yeah… I generally keep away from WWII historical fiction because it’s just really hard to read about the Holocaust that much.
But this book was different. It’s not a Holocaust survival story. It’s a refugee story and it’s an important one, especially in this current political time. I wont get into all that, but I am glad to see a book about refugees and what they go through when they are forced out of their own countries because of the atrocities of war.
This book is told in an alternating four-POV first person narrative. I generally don’t read alternating/multi-POV books, but this worked so amazingly well. Each chapter is short and that makes it IMPOSSIBLE to put the book down because you feel like you can read “just one more…”. I loved the mixture of voices and ages. I was able to empathize with each character’s plight, and I ABHORRED Alfred and it was amazing the way Sepetys wrote such a twisted character.
Another issue I usually have with historical fiction is how bogged down we can get with facts and how damn dense it can be. This is… I don’t want to say light, but it’s incredibly accessible while being full of rich details. I feel like I learned a lot! The fact that a lot of this is fact (while the story is fiction) is mindbloggling. Also the way that the horrors of war were handled in the writing was perfect. There’s just enough sprinkled in that you don’t dwell on the fact that mothers are tossing their babies at a boat in hopes that they’ll land safely, but you do take a moment.
The ending of this really got me and I had to read it twice. I was not expecting that at all.
This is full of gorgeous writing, horrific war time and gut wrenching moments. Read it.