Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

A Novel

Book - 2016
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"As World War II draws to a close, refugees try to escape the war's final dangers, only to find themselves aboard a ship with a target on its hull"-- Provided by publisher.
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]
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780399160301
Branch Call Number: TEEN SEPETYS
Characteristics: 391 pages : maps ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

As World War II was ending, there was a ray of promise for the German citizens and refugees caught in the crossfire between the Russians and the Nazis. The MV Wilhelm Gustloff would be available to transport those ravaged by war to evacuation sites. A companion novel to Between Shades of Gray, th... Read More »

2016 Winner, Young Adult Fiction

From the critics

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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.'

Jun 07, 2020

Wow! This book is now one of my favorite of all time! It was so beautifully written and sheds light on one of the forgotten parts of history. I loved the four viewpoints (even though Alfred got on my nerves), and how personal it made the tragedy. I can't even describe how amazing this book is!

Mar 26, 2020

This book is amazing! It's by far my favorite book of all time. It's a bit gory but not that much, with a perfect amount of romance in the mix. It really makes you think about what really happened back in WW2. I love the quote at the beginning. It really helps tie the story together. I love all the different main characters (Except Alfred!!! But he did need to be in the story to give a different kind of point of view.), they are very close to my heart, and it really explains the different struggles each one of them has. I love first person, because it helps you to really grasp and experience what the author is meaning and I am so happy that I read this book! It's a must read, so you must read it! Like, now. Go. Why are you still reading this? LOL, enjoy the book! One book that is similar is Everything I Never Told You.

Jan 27, 2020

A favorite author. Excellent

JCLBetM Jan 03, 2020

A creative story with a varied cast of characters and a historical event in WWII that is rarely mentioned -- it didn't stop me in my tracks but is definitely worth a read. I also appreciated seeing different kinds of German characters.

ArapahoePaige Dec 16, 2019

In 1945, the Russian army advances toward Germany. Ahead of it, thousands of refugees seek to escape. Four refugees’ paths cross and converge and finally they band together. Each carries a burden. Each carries a secret. Each seeks safety. Will they find it aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff?

Nov 26, 2019

Thoroughly enjoyed this book. A group of strangers (supposedly Germain ethnicity approved) are thrown together in an attempt to survive and escape the advancing Russians in WWII. The bonds they develop over time are revealed as well as the true character of the people involved. Ultimately a disaster where huge numbers of people were killed and an incident that seemed little known. Humans at their best and their very worst.

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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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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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