Summary: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is an intriguing 2016 historical fiction novel set during World War II. Sepetys’s novel follows four individuals, whose paths cross and stories intertwine, as they journey to escape Stalin’s Russian invasion during World War II.
Readers are introduced to four seemingly different characters: a fifteen year old pregnant Polish girl, a young Prussian soldier with a secret, a nurse whose guilt is tearing her apart, and finally a German soldier on the edge of sanity. With each chapter told from one of the four character’s points of view, readers are allowed to become enmeshed in each character’s lives. Their stories come full circle when the four are passengers on the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff; a German transport ship slated to carry German personnel to safety. The Wilhelm Gustloff became the deadliest maritime disaster in history.
Review: Salt to the Sea is one of those books that once you start reading, you cannot put down. Because of the books format, each chapter told from a different character’s point of view, it is an easy read that completely captures the readers’ attention.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is how well each of the characters’ stories are related. Sepetys was very thoughtful in how she slowly lets the reader find out the full story of each character in small snippets along the way. As with the character Emilia, the fifteen-year-old pregnant Polish girl, we do not find out the truth of her pregnancy until the end. Another fascinating aspect of the book is how Sepetys brought three historical events into the story: the Wilhelm Gustloff, the disappearance of the Amber Room, and Operation Hannibal. I found it interesting that the deadliest maritime disaster in history is one that most people have never heard about. I certainly had not!
I believe this story would appeal to most any reader, teen through adult, not just historical buffs. I have never been a fan of historical fiction, but this novel completely captured my attention and has made me want to read more. Salt to the Sea is one of those books that I truly did not want to end. It is a book that I will highly recommend to anyone.