Salt to the Sea is definitely my first 5 star read of the year. It is, without a doubt, equal parts powerful, haunting, and heart-wrenching. Telling the story of a little known tragedy, Salt to the Sea follows four characters: Joana, a Lithuanian nurse; Emilia, a Polish girl; Florian, an East Prussian mystery man; and Alfred, a member of the German navy. Their stories start off individually but soon they come together amid thousands of refugees trying to flee the oncoming Soviet army aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.
What I Liked:
Ruta Sepetys doesn’t sugarcoat history. When something bad happens, she says it plain…no matter how it might hurt to read about. This could not have been an easy book to write. For example, we have the quote,”
Mothers tried hurling their infants to passengers up on deck, but they couldn’t throw high enough. Their babies smashed against the side of the ship and plunged into the sea” (pg. 295)
Sepetys’s words will definitely stay with me for a long time. World War II was definitely not an era I would have wanted to live through especially when it comes to war-torn Europe. I could not even imagine being desperate enough to throw my child towards a sailing ship knowing there was a 99.9% chance they wouldn’t make it. Plus, the scenes describing the sinking ship are just as depressing to read about. However, it’s sooo important to do so.
Even though the chapters were short, I still feel like I got to know the essence of every single character and how they developed. I loved 3 of our four main characters and how they banded together first out of necessity and then later as a family. I sympathized with all of them, but especially Emilia. She was such a poor little cinnamon roll who I just wanted to hug and feed cookies to.
Also, I love how this novel is about little-known history. How crazy is it that this humongous ship sunk, killing about 9,400 people, and no one has ever heard of it? Then there’s the Amber Room, a treasure-filled room that no one knows the whereabouts of. This room hasn’t been seen since 1945 and apparently people have died trying to find it. It’s really interesting albeit creepy to research.
What I Didn’t Like:
Oh, Alfred…if only there was someone out there who could love you…
I HATED his character so much, and was actually very happy at his fate. He was legit a psychopath. I don’t want to give too much away, but omg I wanted to do this for the whole novel.
Final Verdict: I just loved everything about this novel, and I can’t wait to read more of Ruta Sepetys’s work.
Rating: 5 stars