Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

A Novel

Book - 2016
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World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom. When their paths converge in route to the ship that promises salvation, Joana, Emilia, and Florian find their strength, courage, and trust in one another tested with each step closer toward safety. When tragedy strikes the Wilhelm Gustloff, they must fight for the same thing: survival.
Publisher: New York : Philomel Books, 2016
ISBN: 9780399160301
Branch Call Number: FICTION Sep
Description: 391 pages : illustration ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

Told from multiple points of view and set during the end of WWII, readers hear each character's journey and the sacrifices made to reach freedom on the ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Will they make it, or will the journey and tragedy that ensues be too much to survive?

Seeking to flee Europe as World War II nears its end, Joana, Emilia, and Florian board a ship. When tragedy strikes all those aboard, the teens must fight to survive.

List - Hatchet
CRRLTeens Nov 13, 2018

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom. When their paths converge in route to the ship that promises salvation, Joana, Emilia, and Florian find their strength, courage, and trust in one another tested with each step clo... Read More »

Four young adults try to escape the horrors of WWII and get to safety.

CRRLKids Sep 26, 2017

This book read a lot like a Titanic survival story, maybe an I Survived read for an older audience. The first half of the book was a bit hard to keep track of as each chapter was narrated by a different character, but as you kept reading, how they connected to one another was made clearer. The se... Read More »

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Feb 14, 2021

SALT TO SEA is a fictional story of a real life tragedy. It is a powerful emotional journey that follows a multicultural multinational group of refuges fleeing EUROPE at the end of World War 2. The writing is excellent and the characters are as real as people you know. The deplorable conditions and the atrocities and insanity of war are met with courage and hope by several unforgettable individuals, trying to flee europe by boat. It is a sad story of brutality that is inspiring at times.

At the heart of the story is the sinking of one ship carrying 10,000 refugees, drowning most of them. 5000 of them were children. This appalling event accounts for the single largest loss of life in a maritime incident, yet has been largely ignored by history. SALT TO SEA brings this important historical event to vivid life. This is an excellent story and an important one.

It isn't only the chaos of war that eclipsed this story into a largely forgotten event, it is the culpability of Nazi Germany AND the Allies that made this an event history left out of its "major atrocities of the war" in the accounting of human lives lost needlessly.

It was a major harrowing event that should be as familiar to current generations as the most notorious of the concentration camps. It is obviously true that the victors tell the story; but when the victors share the guilt and have blood of the innocent on their hands, that part gets left out of the history books.

Excellent historical fiction that is disturbing on many levels

Dec 12, 2020

Absolutely loved this novel! Another beautifully written story, (by Ruta Sepetys), of people from all backgrounds coming together to survive during a horrific time-period in history. Enjoyed the different perspectives and the way it all came together. Although it's perfect for teens, adults alike can appreciate it as well. Defiantly recommend.

I love reading historical fiction because I always learn something. In this the reader learns about what's considered the greatest maritime disaster in history. Ruta Sepetys tells a story about four teenage refugees. She combines war with romance and suspense. The book, as described, says that all four, who begin as strangers to one another, all hold a secret of their own. The build up is weaved together so you're wanting to keep reading to find out what's going to happen; who survives and what secrets they all hold. Each character speaks in the first person, and it isn't done in chapters exactly, but just goes from one character to the next, rotating as the story is told by each. This is a young adult genre, and it's so well done. Without being too graphic, Sepetys paints a real picture of how hideous war can be. This is a fast read and I definitely recommend this book.

Nov 12, 2020

This is probably one of the best books I have ever read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a moving story.
The ending was a bit abrupt and not my favorite, but everything else was near perfect.

ArapahoeKathy Nov 05, 2020

Four people from completely different backgrounds are brought together in this romantic thriller. As WWII draws to an end, refugees in East Prussia are on a trek to what they hope is freedom. What happens next is the deadliest maritime disaster in history. I loved the ending, though not, happily ever after for everyone.

Nov 04, 2020

Salt to the Sea
By Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea, was one of the first historical fiction books, I read and actually loved. It is about the journey of a group of refugees who are trying to get freedom. The thing is, usually, I don't really connect with historical fiction. I don't feel like it is as fun, but more something that is objective. For me, reading historical fiction is like watching a documentary. While I find it quite interesting, my feelings are just pure enjoyment. It is what I feel when learning, which is great, but I cannot connect with the characters as much. So when I actually got emotional because of this book, I was really surprised. It has been a while since I've read it, but the fact is that it moved me. I also like another book she wrote called Out of the Easy, which was about New Orleans from a while back.

Sep 04, 2020

This book follows the lives of four young people: Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred. While they all led very different lives before the Winter of 1945, they are now fighting to gain passage on a ship that guarantees safety and freedom for all who board it, from the terrors they left behind in their home countries in the Baltics. In the attempt to save as many civilians as possible, the 2,000 person capacity onboard the Wilhelm Gustloff was overloaded with more than 10,500 passengers. These four characters, each with their own history, stories, and secrets, were suddenly thrown into the dangerous events of the most deadly single ship sinking in history.
I really loved the unknown side of history this book covered. It was also very interesting to learn about all the different backgrounds of each of the different characters. One was from Lithuania, another from Germany, the third from Poland, and the last a german soldier, which gave the story a fascinating alternative side, even if his character was rather selfish. It was insane to think how many people perished in the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, and how such a deadly and tragic event could be so forgotten, but I think this book did an amazing job of representing the extent of the horrors the tragedy created. This book was easy to read in the literary sense, and though there are some graphic parts I think it is suitable for ages 13 and older.

CMLibrary_BrandyR Aug 26, 2020

A must read for fans of WW2 historical fiction. Flawlessly researched and written. Follows characters through struggles that aren't always explored in the genre. Characters and plot interwoven with Ruta's novel Between Shades of Gray.

Aug 14, 2020

This story is a compelling mix of hope and loss. Detailing a real WWII tragedy, it follows the lives of four characters, each with their own secrets and dreams, as they attempt to escape the war. This book describes one of the worst tragedies of WWII, and I am surprised to have never heard of it before. Therefore, for the powerful descriptions of the event, as well as for the poignant characters, I recommend this book to anyone to gain a broader perspective on history.

Jun 21, 2020

Four young people—Joana, Alfred, Emilia and Florian—narrate a story of survival as WW II enters its final months and evacuees travel west toward the Baltic ahead of advancing Soviet forces.

Wow. Quite a work of historic fiction, page-turning good. Loved the inclusion about the lost Amber Room I have read much about, also was reminded of Chris Bohjalian’s 'Skeletons at the Feast.'

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ArapahoeKathy Nov 05, 2020

“I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

ArapahoeMaryA Dec 31, 2016

“But unlike Mama, I would not go to heaven. My secrets padlocked the gates. I'd be a torn kite stuck in the dead branches of a tree, unable to fly.”


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Jun 20, 2019

Other: There are mentions of attempted rape. One of the main characters is raped, but's not to graphic. Also there are graphic descriptions of people dying that might be upsetting to some.


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