Salt to the Sea
By Ruta Sepetys
Published: 2017, Penguin Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Literature, YA Fiction
Guilt is a hunter.
My conscience mocked me, picking fights like a petulant child.
It’s all your fault, the voice whispered.
The book begins with Joanna, but it twists and turns through the lives of three additonal individuals and how each of their journeys intersect with the others. This story takes place surrounding the greatest tragedy in maritime history. Each of the main characters is on a journey through World War II; a journey that will lead them to promises of safety and freedom aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff.
Before I read this novel, I had no knowledge of the Wilhelm Gustloff. This made me a little bit sad and a tiny bit angry that the greatest tragedy in maritime history is not widely known in our history books. Something that was this devastating should be remembered and known.
I loved how Ruta Sepetys was able to tell each person’s story from their perspective while still weaving the history and tragedy of the war. There are some hard things within the pages, but my opinion is that if we don’t know about the struggles, tragedy, mistakes and “yuckiness” of the past, then how are we to learn from it? If you have a teen who is sensitive to such things, I would recommend that they do not read this book. If they are not sensitive, then every teen should read this book; it is written from a realistic point of view and does not gloss over the tough stuff that happened because of the war. it gives you a new perspective on the war.
The author did a fantastic job of tying all of the characters together as their paths finally crossed. I loved how they weaved in and out of each others lives, adding a piece to each journey. I also liked that there was closure on each of their stories; I was not left wondering what their fate was after the story was over. I thought this a wonderful piece of historical fiction.
I turned the lid and lifted the rose petal jam to my nose, savoring the scent. I raised my face to the sun. My war had been so long, my winters so cold. But I had finally made it home. And for the first time in a long time, I was not afraid.