Salt to the Sea
By Ruta Sepetys
Published February 2, 2016 by Philomel Books
Emilia tells herself a story to accept the secret she carries. Joana desperately helps anyone she can to make amends for what she's done. Florian is trying to outrun the treacherous thing he's done. And Alfred longs to prove his worth to his beloved Hannelore. These four lives will cross at the sight of the greatest maritime disaster in history.
So I absolutely loved Between Shades of Gray but was less enamored of Out of the Easy. I was cautiously excited when I heard about this one and was very pleased to be given access to the digital galley prior to publication. I really enjoyed this one.
It definitely falls more into the style of her first book - even ignoring the direct connection (which I won't spoil for you), this is another war story. It takes place during the same time period and in the same general part of the world as her debut. It shared stylistic similarities as well - the chapters are short, begging you to read just one more before setting it aside for the night. The short chapters keep the pace moving quickly, so the 400 pages absolutely fly by. Additionally, I'm generally a fan of novels using multiple POVs and I think it works very well here. We are given a variety of perspectives on the war and how one survives such a tragedy with these four main characters. I thought they were all equally well-developed, and I connected with each of them (though I'd say my connection with Alfred was one of unease and distrust).
Once again, I don't know if I should be pleased or upset that I learned something from this book. The four characters meet aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship fated for the worst maritime disaster in history. Yes, worse than the Titanic. And yet, before this book, I'd never heard of it. It's unbelievable to me how much we are not taught, but, once again, that's part of why I love historical fiction - discovering times and places I know little about (and also part of the reason I want to read more non-fiction this year). I imagine this book will be eye-opening to many readers.
My only criticism of the book is that the ending felt rushed. The majority of the book happens while the characters are on their journey toward the Gustloff. Once they are aboard, things move very quickly, and the book ends shortly after disaster strikes. I would have liked to have spent a bit more time with the characters after the tragedy before reaching the end.
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.