Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
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.
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.
While I didn’t quite enjoy this as much as Ruta Sepetys’ debut novel Between Shades of Gray, I still found Salt to the Sea to be an informative and emotional story about one of history’s biggest maritime tragedies.
Torpedo strike: Approximately 9:15 pm
Passengers on Board: 10,573.
But then I remembered: 10 of the lifeboats were missing.
On January 30th, 1945, the Wilhelm Gustloff sunk after being hit by torpedoes. Over 10,000 people were on board, most of them refugees hoping to escape the atrocities of World War II. Only an estimated 1,000 passengers survived – a smaller survival rate than the Titanic.
Salt to the Sea follows four teenagers – Joana, Florian, Emilia and Alfred – as they board the doomed ship.
Each of the four teens have well-developed and thorough backstories. They are each burdened by the horrors of war and the secrets they each carry, and it’s heartbreaking to see what heavy burdens they carry.
The story alternates between these four teens’ perspectives, but each chapter was typically only 2-3 pages long. Because the changes in perspective were so frequent and rapid, it was a bit hard to connect to the characters on a deeper level.
Not many people know about the tragedy of the Gustloff, but Salt to the Sea makes it impossible to forget. This is a well-researched and eye-opening account that I highly recommend.
More than 10,000 people had been on board the Gustloff. The gruesome details of the sinking would be reported in every world newspaper. The tragedy would be studied for years, become legendary.