Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea

A Novel

Book - 2016
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New York Times Bestseller!  "Masterly crafted" -- The Wall Street Journal

For readers of  Between Shades of Gray  and All the Light We Cannot See , bestselling author Ruta Sepetys  returns to WWII in this epic novel that  shines a light on one of the war's most devastating--yet unknown--tragedies.

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Told in alternating points of view and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning  All the Light We Cannot See , Erik Larson's  Dead Wake , and Elizabeth Wein's Printz Honor Book  Code Name Verity , this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the   Wilhelm Gustloff -- the greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in  Between Shades of Gray , Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.

Praise for  Salt to the Sea :
Featured on NPR's Morning Edition  ♦  "Superlative...masterfully crafted...[a] powerful work of historical fiction."-- The Wall Street Journal  ♦   "[Sepetys is] a master of YA fiction...she once again anchors a panoramic view of epic tragedy in perspectives that feel deeply textured and immediate."-- Entertainment Weekly  ♦   "Compelling for both adult and teenage readers."-- New York Times Book Review  ♦  "Intimate, extraordinary, artfully crafted...brilliant."-- Shelf Awareness   ♦  "[H]aunting, heartbreaking, hopeful and altogether of the best young-adult novels to appear in a very long time."-- Salt Lake Tribune  ♦   * "This haunting gem of a novel begs to be remembered."-- Booklist,  starred review  ♦  * "Artfully told and sensitively crafted...will leave readers weeping."-- School Library Journal,  starred review

Praise for Between Shades of Gray :
New York Times  Notable Book, 2011  ♦   Wall Street Journal  Best Children's Book, 2011  ♦  A  Publishers Weekly ,  School Library Journal , Booklist , and Kirkus  Best Book of 2011  ♦  iTunes 2011 Rewind Best Teen Novel  ♦  A Carnegie Medal and William C. Morris Finalist  ♦  A  New York Times  and International Bestseller  ♦  "Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both."-- The Washington Post  ♦   * "Beautifully written and deeply important book that deserves the widest possible readership."-- Booklist
Publisher: New York :, Philomel Books,, ©2016.
ISBN: 9780399160301
Branch Call Number: YA SEP
Characteristics: 391 pages : maps ; 22 cm.


From Library Staff

List - Refugee stories
Liesel_C Dec 17, 2017

An evocative historical fiction inspired by a real-life tragedy. It is winter 1945, towards the end of the Second World War, and thousands of refugees in Eastern Europe are fleeing the Soviet advance. "Salt to the sea" tells the story of four refugees hoping to gain passage on the Wilh... Read More »

It’s 1945; the war is ending, and with the Red Army advancing, thousands of refugees are fleeing Germany. Joanna, Emilia, and Florian are thrown together on the ship Wilhelm Gustloff, but when disaster strikes, can they still hope for freedom – or even survival?

It is 1945, and four teens are seeking refuge on a ship that promises safety to all. As their paths converge, their hopes for freedom hang in the balance.

From the critics

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Aug 12, 2018

I can't recommend this book enough for any lover of historical fiction. The story is told from the perspective of multiple characters, each very different from the other. I love stories of WWII and it was refreshing to learn about an event that has largely been hidden from the history books. There is plenty of action and a bit of romance. Fascinating and a quick read.

Jul 18, 2018

Another great historical novel by Sepetys that highlights a little known event. Like others, I was blown away by the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff and that I had never heard of it. I also went online to read the real story. The book is told in alternating chapters by four individuals with very different and distinct back stories. Quick, dramatic and absorbing read.

May 25, 2018

After reading this book, I could not believe that I had never heard of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, which is the biggest maritime tragedy in all of history. Great book!!! Similar to "All the Light We Cannot See" but geared more towards teens than to adults (but adults will probably enjoy it too)

bookloverjane May 18, 2018

Historical fiction - so well written, with very engaging characters. Great appeal for teens and adults. The author tells us of a "lost story of strength through struggle." My book club gives this book high marks.

Apr 29, 2018

Great book. It is a story of 4 teens who battle through loss, hardship, suffering and war of WW2. Good job Ruta!!

Feb 26, 2018

Beautiful and eloquent writing. Wonderful historical fiction based on the factual demise of the German ship, Wilhelm Gustloff.

ArapahoeLaura Feb 07, 2018

Emotional story of four teen refugees during WWII

OPL_KrisC Feb 03, 2018

This book is set in the winter of 1945 during World War II and follows four refugees who are seeking to escape and end up on the Wilhelm Gustloff. The William Gustloff was an actual ship during WWII and is a part of a tragedy that was 6 times more deadly than the Titanic. I love how reading this fiction book inspired me to research what actually happened on the William Gustloff. I highly recommend this book.

Nov 10, 2017

This is an amazing book, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes War, Romance and Historical fiction-like books. Reminds me of the Titanic, which, for the record, is one of the saddest and best movies I have ever seen.

This book is about a group of strangers who become good friends and struggle to make it to a safer land without being caught in the middle of the war. A must read!

Oct 23, 2017

What would you do if you were stuck working with an enemy?

Check out my review of "Salt to the Sea" on my blog at:

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Jul 18, 2018

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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.”

KindianaJones_VWML May 06, 2016

"The Fuhrer is a talented watercolorist. He applied to art school [...] but the school did not accept him. Oh, how they will regret it."


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