Salt to the Sea
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Published: February 2, 2016
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
While the Titanic and Lusitania are both well-documented disasters, the single greatest tragedy in maritime history is the little-known January 30, 1945 sinking in the Baltic Sea by a Soviet submarine of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German cruise liner that was supposed to ferry wartime personnel and refugees to safety from the advancing Red Army. The ship was overcrowded with more than 10,500 passengers — the intended capacity was approximately 1,800 — and more than 9,000 people, including 5,000 children, lost their lives.
Sepetys crafts four fictionalized but historically accurate voices to convey the real-life tragedy. Joana, a Lithuanian with nursing experience; Florian, a Prussian soldier fleeing the Nazis with stolen treasure; and Emilia, a Polish girl close to the end of her pregnancy, converge on their escape journeys as Russian troops advance; each will eventually meet Albert, a Nazi peon with delusions of grandeur, assigned to the Gustloff decks.
I have a love/hate relationship with Ruta. She’s such a great story teller, and I think her works should be on every history teacher’s shelf as a great educational resource. I love her characters and she loves picking slightly obscure events within bigger, more famous circumstances. But she also loves to let stories hang. At the end, they just stop abruptly, but then time races forward and a little more info is given before the book just ends. There’s no real resolution and the “future” info is given with no real context. Why do it, Ruta????? We want more and you refuse to ever give it to us!!!!
Salt to the Sea has such wonderful characters that you end up caring about and rooting for and getting so excited about. The story of the Wilhelm Gustloff is a little known chapter of WW2; I had never heard of it, and I couldn’t wait to learn something new. Then everything just stops. She then gives just enough to “end” the story without “stopping” completely . . . But it’s not enough! What happened between 1945 and 1969? What happened with the Christensens that Emilia made that big of an impact? It’s just so incomplete and I’ve really never been sadder about the ending of a book! Every teen needs to read this book because they will learn a lot from it. But, please, Ruta!! Please stop doing this to us!!