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Salt to the Sea
Cover of Salt to the Sea
Salt to the Sea
New York Times Bestseller! "Masterly crafted"—The Wall Street JournalFor readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, bestselling author Ruta Sepetys returns to WWII in this...
New York Times Bestseller! "Masterly crafted"—The Wall Street JournalFor readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, bestselling author Ruta Sepetys returns to WWII in this...
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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—adults and children alike—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 Gustloffthe 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 and love 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 ♦ "Riveting...powerful...haunting."—The Washington Post ♦ "Compelling for both adult and teenage readers."—New York Times Book Review ♦ "Intimate, extraordinary, artfully crafted...brilliant."—Shelf Awareness ♦ "Historical fiction at its very, very best."—The Globe and Mail "[H]aunting, heartbreaking, hopeful and altogether gorgeous...one 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 *"Artfully told and sensitively crafted...will leave readers weeping."—School Library Journal
    Praise for Between Shades of Gray:
    A New York Times Notable Book ♦ A Wall Street Journal Best Children's Book ♦ A Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus Best Book ♦ 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 ♦ *"[A]n important book that deserves the widest possible readership."—Booklist
    From the Hardcover edition.
 

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Excerpts-

  • From the book joana

    Guilt is a hunter.
    My conscience mocked me, picking fights like a petulant child.
    It's all your fault, the voice whispered.
    I quickened my pace and caught up with our small group. The Germans would march us off the field road if they found us. Roads were reserved for the military. Evacuation orders hadn't been issued and anyone fleeing East Prussia was branded a deserter. But what did that matter? I became a deserter four years ago, when I fled from Lithuania.
    Lithuania.
    I had left in 1941. What was happening at home? Were the dreadful things whispered in the streets true?
    We approached a mound on the side of the road. The small boy in front of me whimpered and pointed. He had joined us two days prior, just wandered out of the forest alone and quietly began following us.
    "Hello, little one. How old are you?" I had asked.
    "Six," he replied.
    "Who are you traveling with?"
    He paused and dropped his head. "My Omi."
    I turned toward the woods to see if his grandmother had emerged. "Where is your Omi now?" I asked.
    The wandering boy looked up at me, his pale eyes wide. "She didn't wake up."
    So the little boy traveled with us, often drifting just slightly ahead or behind. And now he stood, pointing to a flap of dark wool beneath a meringue of snow.
    I waved the group onward and when everyone advanced I ran to the snow-covered heap. The wind lifted a layer of icy flakes revealing the dead blue face of a woman, probably in her twenties. Her mouth and eyes were hinged open, fixed in fear. I dug through her iced pockets, but they had already been picked. In the lining of her jacket I found her identification papers. I stuffed them in my coat to pass on to the Red Cross and dragged her body off the road and into the field. She was dead, frozen solid, but the thought of tanks rolling over her was more than I could bear.
    I ran back to the road and our group. The wandering boy stood in the center of the path, snow falling all around him.
    "She didn't wake up either?" he asked quietly.
    I shook my head and took his mittened hand in mine.
    And then we both heard it in the distance.
    Bang.


    florian

    Fate is a hunter.
    Engines buzzed in a swarm above. Der Schwarze Tod, "the Black Death," they called them. I hid beneath the trees. The planes weren't visible, but I felt them. Close. Trapped by darkness both ahead and behind, I weighed my options. An explosion detonated and death crept closer, curling around me in fingers of smoke.
    I ran.
    My legs churned, sluggish, disconnected from my racing mind. I willed them to move, but my conscience noosed around my ankles and pulled down hard.
    "You are a talented young man, Florian." That's what Mother had said.
    "You are Prussian. Make your own decisions, son," said my father.
    Would he have approved of my decisions, of the secrets I now carried across my back? Amidst this war between Hitler and Stalin, would Mother still consider me talented, or criminal?
    The Soviets would kill me. But how would they torture me first? The Nazis would kill me, but only if they uncovered the plan. How long would it remain a secret? The questions propelled me forward, whipping through the cold forest, dodging branches. I clutched my side with one hand, my pistol with the other. The pain surged with each breath and step, releasing warm blood out of the angry wound.
    The sound of the engines faded. I had been on the run for days and my mind felt as weak as my legs. The hunter preyed on the fatigued and weary. I had to rest. The pain slowed me to a jog and finally a walk. Through the dense trees in the forest I...

Reviews-

  • DOGO Books _ARR0W_ - This is a great book! great for ages 13 and up but I love this author and her work. Please write more!!!
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 9, 2015
    Sepetys delivers another knockout historical novel, after Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy, that offers insight into the ugly realities of WWII and culminates with a forgotten event, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Set in East Prussia during the brutal winter of 1945, in the waning days of the conflict, and tautly narrated by four strong, distinct voices, the narrative highlights the plight of refugees as Germany tries to evacuate soldiers and civilians: “The brutality was shocking. Disgraceful acts of inhumanity. No one wanted to fall into the hands of the enemy. But it was growing harder to distinguish who the enemy was.” The narrators include Florian, a Prussian boy carrying a secret parcel; traumatized 15-year-old Amelia, a Polish girl without papers who hides a mysterious pregnancy; Joana, a repatriated 21-year-old Lithuanian nurse, who believes she’s a murderer; and Alfred, a German soldier who imagines writing self-important missives to a girl back home. Their stories collide—first as the three refugees travel through the countryside with a larger group, and then as they try to gain passage on Alfred’s ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff, which is doomed to maritime disaster with casualties exceeding those of the Titanic and Lusitania combined. Sepetys excels in shining light on lost chapters of history, and this visceral novel proves a memorable testament to strength and resilience in the face of war and cruelty. Ages 12–up. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House.

  • Kirkus

    November 15, 2015
    January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens' lives converge in hopes of escape. Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices--Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred--with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany's role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn't change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning. Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author's note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from December 1, 2015

    Gr 8 Up-With the same lyrical prose, eye for detail, and breath-stopping ability to unfold delicate layers of characterization and theme with skillfully paced revelations, the author of Between Shades of Gray (2011) and Out of the Easy (2013, both Philomel) presents a fictionalized World War II story based on a true tragedy. In alternating narratives, four different teens grapple with the bitter cold, the ever-present danger of falling bombs, and their own dark secrets. There's Joana, a pretty and empathetic Lithuanian nurse who harbors a heavy guilt; Florian, a mysterious young man struggling to hide his true identity; Amelia, a pregnant Polish girl; and Alfred, a sociopathic Nazi sailor with an inferiority complex. Along with a fully realized cast of secondary characters who comprise the small band of refugees slowly making their way through the frozen and battle-scarred Prussian countryside, Joana, Florian, and Amelia are determined to get aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German military ship evacuating civilians and wounded soldiers at the tail end of the war. Alfred, meanwhile, a low-ranking officer stationed aboard the ship, avoids work by hiding in the toilets, composing imaginary and boastful letters to a girl back home. Each voice is distinct, and Sepetys unwinds their individual backstories slowly and with care. As the relationships among the refugees strengthen and they begin to trust one another, vulnerabilities are revealed-some of them life-threatening. Observations of war and loss, human cruelty, and hatred are unflinching. But through the horror and heartbreak shine rays of hope: love, kindness, courage, and sacrifice. VERDICT Artfully told and sensitively crafted, Sepetys's exploration of this little-known piece of history will leave readers weeping.-Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal

    Copyright 2015 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from December 1, 2015

    January 1945. The war in Europe is in its end stages as German forces are beaten back by the Allied armies. To escape the Soviet advance on the eastern front, thousands of refugees flee to the Polish coast. In this desperate flight for freedom, four young people--each from very different backgrounds and each with dark secrets--connect as they vie for passage on the Willhelm Gustloff, a former pleasure cruiser used to evacuate the refugees. Packed to almost ten times its original capacity, the ship is hit by Soviet torpedoes fewer than 12 hours after leaving port. As the ship sinks into the icy waters of the Baltic Sea, what was supposed to be an avenue for escape quickly becomes another fight to survive the randomness of war. VERDICT YA author Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray; Out of the Easy) describes an almost unknown maritime disaster whose nearly 9,000 casualties dwarfed those of both the Titanic and the Lusitania. Told alternately from the perspective of each of the main characters, the novel also highlights the struggle and sacrifices that ordinary people--children--were forced to make. At once beautiful and heart-wrenching, this title will remind readers that there are far more casualties of war than are recorded in history books. Sure to have crossover appeal for adult readers.--Elisabeth Clark, West Florida P.L., Pensacola

    Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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