Ruta Sepetys has been described as a “literary archeologist” with the gift of unearthing the buried stories lost to us over time. Her third novel Salt to the Sea is no exception as she weaves the tale of the greatest marine disaster in history.
Four teenagers. Four secrets. Fear is propelling Joana, Florian, and Emilia toward the port city of Gotenhafen, Poland where they will board the Wilhelm Gustlaff and sail away from the guilt, anger, and shame that is hunting each one of them in 1945 during a war they thought would never end. Russia is closing in on Germany as refugees flee during the evacuation authorized by the Third Reich known as Operation Hannibal. The story flows seamlessly from one narrator to another as their secrets are slowly revealed. Each character represents a country trapped in the conflict and offers a unique perspective to the suffering each has endured allowing the reader to empathize with their heartache and pain. What are the fates of Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred as they set sail on the doomed Wilhelm Gustlaff? What have they gained? What have they lost?