Review: SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys


Ruta Sepetys
Published: February 2nd 2016 by Philomel Books
Pages: 393

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.


Fate is a hunter.

Salt to the Sea was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking. Ruta Sepetys once again successfully brought to us a historical novel that was both shocking and honest in its retelling of the tragic happenings of WWII. It can also be read as a companion to Between Shades of Gray , as both stories have connecting threads that go beyond the war.

The book was told in the POV of four characters, all of which were fascinating. They each came from different places and had very distinctive backgrounds. In a few short chapters the author was able to establish them all as real people who were suffering immensely, trying to survive the horrific situations they found themselves in.

The writing was beautiful in its simplicity. Even when chapters consistent of nothing more than a few sentences, they conveyed so much emotion that it was hard to keep reading sometimes. Sepetys did not shy away from how gruesome war can be and just how many were lost along the way.

There were also a few bright moments to balance out the darkness: the wandering boy and his bunny, the baby, Opiand his wisdom, and the little dash of romance between two characters. But this was a book about war, after all…

The ending that left me both relieved and incredibly sad. It was not a clean cut and happy ending, which just made me love this book even more. There was no sugarcoating for the sake of giving readers some closure. It was realistic, matching the rest of the story perfectly.

Salt to the Sea just made me fall more in love with Sepetys’ writing. And I’m sure whatever she has in store for us will be just as great.


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