We follow a small group of characters as they make their way across the land and the water trying to reach the ships that will take them to safety. They are cold, hungry, frightened, and some are injured. Most of them have secrets which could get them killed.
The narration switches between four different people. Three are members of this group, and one is a soldier that has been assigned to The Wilhelm Gustloff. Their paths will cross.
As we follow these people through their journey, we learn bits and pieces about their pasts and how they ended up in this predicament. Not all the stories will turn out to be true, but by the end of Salt to the Sea it will all become clear. This technique definitely keeps the pages turning.
It did take me a while to keep the narrators clear. I would have to page back to remind myself which one was talking. This is a personal thing of mine -- I always read too fast and miss some details until I make myself slow down. Not all of the narrators are likable. I found Alfred, the soldier, to be the most compelling (not likeable!) Most of his narration is in the form of letters he imagines writing to a neighbor girl who he is in love with. He's a Nazi and believes in everything Hitler stands for. I think he's also a psychopath. Salt to the Sea wouldn't be the same story without his perspective. The contrast to the other characters is chilling and makes their plight all the more harrowing.
I can't wait to recommend Salt to the Sea. Sepetys has included sources for those who want to know more about this event. I think WWII fans will be riveted. Sepetys will be on my "must buy" list forever. I'm so glad she makes the effort to research and write about these events that have faded into historical oblivion.
Published by Philomel, February 2, 2016
eARC obtained from NetGalley
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