Weekly Reads: Salt to the Sea

If you read the last weekly recommendation “Ashes in the Snow,” then you won’t want to miss author Ruta Sepetys’ second journey. In this book, “Salt to the Sea” gives us the story of Lina Vilkas’ cousin Joana.

People in times of war are nothing. Or, they are everything. But in this case, people are nothing more than salt to the sea.

This novel combines four stories:

Joana is a 21-year-old young woman fleeing her Lithuanian home. She is haunted by guilt for leaving behind her friends, family, and cousin Lina. She is a nurse and puts it to good use as she tries to find any ally she can to survive the war.

Alfred is a unique 17-year-old German boy. He lacked strength and was therefore overlooked by the Hitler youth and assigned a poor position as a sailor. He is full of delusions and perhaps even psychopathic.

Florian is hunted by fate. A young Prussian, he is a fighter and secretly an artist. He carries with him something dangerous. Although his fate can’t be outrun, he makes other plans and falls in love with Joana.

Emilia is a young 15-year-old Polish girl. She is hunted by shame for her coat covers her biggest indecency. What would happen if people found out she was pregnant?

Sepetys intertwines the stories of four people with four different backgrounds. She leads them on a journey of survival as they are each hunted by something. Guilt. Shame. Fate. Fear. 

When we have a hunter, we have the hunted. And the hunted run. But sometimes, the hunter succeeds and finds the prey. What happens when Joana, Florian, Emilia, and Alfred meet their hunter? Will they muster up the courage to fight back?

They eventually find the coast, where land meets the Baltic Sea. The ship Wilhelm Gustloff provides safety with a promise of freedom. But unbeknownst to them is that freedom, in times of war, is not so easily gained. 
“Your daughter, your sister. She is salt to the sea.”   ― Ruta Sepetys, “Salt to the Sea”