I can't remember the last time a novel was so totally engrossing and so emotionally powerful. I came into this book expecting the terror of a maritime disaster in cold water and the horror of a historical novel set in the carnage of World War II, and I got all that. But this story is also so hopeful, so beautiful... If you've ever liked historical fiction or narrative nonfiction, you MUST read this book. I'll be recommending it forever. Recommended By McKenzie W., Powells.com
A rich, important tale of historical fiction about a World War II refugee ship’s disastrous sinking, Salt to the Sea is told from different viewpoints with haunting clarity. The stories weave together in a conclusion that is both tragic and life-affirming at the same time. Sepetys is a true master of the genre. Recommended By Richard C., Powells.com
Haunting, heartbreaking, and yet somehow uplifting. Refugees of a diverse background are hunted by the Soviets as they make their way to the Prussian coast to escape aboard the ship Wilhelm Gustloff. The Gustloff, now almost forgotten, was ultimately the worst maritime disaster in history, far more deadly than the Titanic. WWII can be overwhelming to read about, but author Sepetys makes this history graspable by telling intimate tales of four young adult strangers, tossed together by the messiness of war. Recommended By Tracey T., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
New York Times Bestseller! "Masterly crafted" —The Wall Street Journal
For readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, bestselling author Ruta Sepetys returns to WWII in this epic novel that shines a light on one of the war’s most devastating—yet unknown—tragedies.
World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many 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 to safety.
Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
Told in alternating points of view and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein’s Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, 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 and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.
"Ruta Sepetys is a master of historical fiction. In Salt to the Sea the hard truths of her herculean research are tempered with effortless, intimate storytelling, as her warm and human characters breathe new life into one of the world’s most terrible and neglected tragedies." Elizabeth Wein, New York Times bestselling author of Printz Award Honor Book Code Name Verity
"Artfully told and sensitively crafted, Sepetys’s exploration of this little-known piece of history will leave readers weeping." School Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Sepetys’s…scene-setting is impeccable; the penetrating cold of the journey is palpable, and she excels at conveying the scope of the losses while giving them a human face….[T]his elegiac tale succeeds with impressive research, affecting characters, and keen, often unsettling insights into humans’ counterposed tendencies toward evil and nobility. Readers will be left to discuss which impulse triumphs here." The Horn Book
"Sepetys excels in shining light on lost chapters of history, and this visceral novel proves a memorable testament to strength and resilience in the face of war and cruelty." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
About the Author
Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. She is the award-winning, bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy. Ruta lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee.