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Publisher's Summary

Winner, 2017 APA Audie Awards - Young Adult

For readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, international best-selling 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.

In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them 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 matters as all 10,000 people 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 critically acclaimed number-one New York Times best seller 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 Gustloff- the 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 can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.

©2016 Ruta Sepetys (P)2016 Listening Library

Critic Reviews

"Ruta Sepetys is a master of historical fiction. In Salt to the Sea the hard truths of her herculean research are tempered with effortless, intimate storytelling, as her warm and human characters breathe new life into one of the world's most terrible and neglected tragedies." (Elizabeth Wein, New York Times best-selling author of Printz Award Honor Book Code Name Verity)
"A rich, page-turning story that brings to vivid life a terrifying - and little-known - moment in World War II history." (Steve Sheinkin, author of Newbery Honor and National Book Award finalist Bomb)
"Brutal. Beautiful. Honest." (Sabaa Tahir, New York Times best-selling author of An Ember in the Ashes)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Haunting Historical YA Fiction

A Polish girl, German soldier, & Lithuanian nurse are the heart of a group desperate to flee at the end of WWII. Alternating POVs portray backgrounds steeped in sadness and despair as they board their "savior" ship.

The story is artfully crafted with rich details, loosely based on facts. She is not just a good writer, but an excellent storyteller, bringing to light the worst maritime disaster in history. Ever heard of it? Most hadn't until now. The true details from the epilogue highlight how well she wove in the fact with fiction. Don't read other reviews giving away the rich details, just enjoy. If you like this one, "Between Shades of Gray" is even better.

27 of 28 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Beautiful heartbreaker

This is an absolutely beautiful performance of a powerful, haunting story. Right up there with The Book of Aron and The War that Saved My Life and Echo....a quartet of life changing books about WW II, all recent. You'll carry these characters in your heart for a loooong time.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An unique WW2 story

Where does Salt to the Sea rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I haven't read that many, but this is somewhere at the top.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Salt to the Sea?

Oh, the whole book is memorable; but the horrid and sad moments really stick in your mind. I expect I'll dream of them tonight.

Which character – as performed by the narrators – was your favorite?

Johanna - maybe because she is a healthcare worker too, or maybe just because she gave the group so much direction.

Any additional comments?

The characters are so well-written. I think Sepetys is a master of observation. Ingrid, the blind girl, is so well-illustrated - I have many blind family members, and Sepetys very accurately described her body-language and movements. Alfred is such a horrid character, but again, so accurately depicted.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Magnificent!

Another magnificent read by Ruta! A detailed depiction of the tragedy of war as seen through the eyes of four young adults.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Beautifully written tragic tale

The voices were wonderful, the narrative unforgettable. This easily ranks as a favorite historical fiction.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Daryl
  • Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • 06-27-16

A Look into History

As the author stated in the author's note of this book, this is a nearly unknown event in WWII history. She creates well-drawn characters who are forced to rely on each other to get to the ship despite nationality, background, age, or personality.
The characters rely on each other, mistrust each other, depend on each other... and do the same for themselves. It's nuanced and suspenseful and generally well-read.
I'm a bit am bivolent about the narration. It was well-done, but having American narrators use American speech and only occasional German or Polish... it just sat a bit odd. I suppose it's better than putting on accents, but I'm sure native German/Lithuanian/Polish speakers could have performed this book and made it a truly terrific audiobook experience.
Well worth your time, money and/or credit.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Very well writen and narrated!

Would you listen to Salt to the Sea again? Why?

Yes. The story, although ultimately filled with sadness, it is captivating. Each character, from Joana to the wandering boy, is well developed.

What did you like best about this story?

WWII was filled with tragedy and Sepetys dealt with it honestly. And yet she also included hope and redemption.

Any additional comments?

This is a well written fictional story about a true event. The author's note at the end says it all "..when the survivors are gone we must not let the truth disappear with them. Please give them a voice."

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Powerful and Heartbreaking

I am a huge fan of history. I love to learn the hidden history. until I came across this book I had never heard of the sinking of this ship. I was brought to tears. I highly recommend this book.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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excellent narration

This was a really good boom about something most people know nothing of. I didn't and I consider myself well read. Great characters and perfect narration by four performers. Definitely worth the money.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Well done historic fiction.

I was immersed in the voices of the characters! Strange circumstances can make a family of very disparate people. This was definitely not a part of the war I had ever heard before.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-22-18

remember

interesting to hear from different viewpoints. we should remember so we don't have to re-live.

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  • Teresa
  • 05-18-18

Hauntingly beautiful

Exquisitely written this story of displacement and the fight for survival of those tragically irreversibly affected by WWII

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-11-18

A memorable read

The hopelessness of their situations for these victims of war trying to escape Prussia during the 2nd World war. you get to care so much for all of them, you care and want so much for the ugly war not to hurt them, but even whilst you wish this ALL of them have already been damaged from the war but now it's about their desperate plight to survive. I love that this fictional story isl actually created around a truth =- The Wilhem Gustloff ship was real. The throw of the dice for their survival is not high!

On a side, I even want to say I care for the foolish, brainwashed Nazi soldier/Sailor who was clearly in love with a neighbour from home, only later in the story do you realise more crushing sadness. from his story..

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  • Rainforestangel
  • 05-08-18

Wow, not frightening. Good, believeable story.

I'm studying children's literature and this was the last Carnegie prize winner. It's a very good book, and despite the stories context it isn't gratuitous of the horrors. I was expecting to be traumatised, but came away feeling as though it was simply a real story, with real people. This might be because my father's side fled Poland, so I am aware already that individuals are just individuals, no matter their origin, we just seem to be born as ourselves, no matter what. But yeah, poetic, not imposing, realistic, but approachable, an experience, but in no way forced. Really well written and informative without being overt about the real events of WWII, without being boring, and without being gory-led. There is real horror in this book though, don't be mistaken, but it isn't glorified or made to feel sensational. Even though it is truly a sensational human story. Highly recommended to those who have a history in the family. Touching ending. Doesn't shy away from the dark realities. Love is also included. beautiful, in it's own way. Un-forced.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Toni Sinclair
  • 04-16-18

Incredible tale of humanity at it's best and worst

If you could sum up Salt to the Sea in three words, what would they be?

Wonderful, heartbreaking and honest.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The final scenes are heartbreaking but justified. It never felt like the author was writing a story, rather she was narrating someone else's.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mrs
  • 03-28-18

sepetys spectacular

ww2 story if well researched and well used. I'm not too sure I like multiple POV to lisent to, reading the book this was not an issue but when listening it is a more disjointed aspect.

Characters are fantastic and so thoughtfully crafted. excellent.

the story is outstanding and wonderfully imagined. thank you.

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  • Wayne
  • 02-26-18

Brilliant

Fantastic book. Don't be put off by the young adult thing. In turns sad, exciting and engaging

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Hazel McKinnon
  • 07-22-17

A truly 5* book

Would you listen to Salt to the Sea again? Why?

Yes. I listened to the book twice. It was like I didn't want to let go of the characters

What was one of the most memorable moments of Salt to the Sea?

The ending had me in tears

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The sinking of the ship was so dramatic. I felt I was with the people all the way.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It made me cry especially at the end. I was sad and yet happy that at least one person had got home to rest in peace.

Any additional comments?

This was a wonderful story. I know the main characters were fictional but the truth of what happened to so many ofl these people has been kept quiet all these years. Such a well written book. I have recommended it to others,

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • J. Grear
  • 06-24-17

Great book - average production

I thought the decision to use actors with very strong (rather grating) American accents an odd one given the emphasis in the book given to the characters' disparate backgrounds. However that's partly person preference.

However what really really irritated was at least two of the actors pronouncing 'buoyed' as 'boo-eeyed' as if they'd never hear the word said aloud before. Definitely the kind of detail that should be picked up during the production process.

Great story though.

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  • Attila
  • 01-05-18

Just didnt do it for me.

Any additional comments?

This book had the selling point for me: Its another 'All the Light we Cannot See". So its with this expectation that I got it... Also I actually knew about the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, this all meant that for me the planets were aligning and I had an awesome book on my hands, one that would close 2017 and be a great start to awesome novels read in the early 2018. Unfortunately this didn't live up to my expectations.
For me I felt the author's true heart was not in the book or its characters. I felt she was going through the motions to try to write a good book on par with her earlier success 'Between Shades of Grey'. And I got a suspicion its this book that is the authors true work.. For me Salt of the Sea was something she needed to turn out to keep the publishing company happy (to lay another golden egg as it were).. By the end of the book I didn't care what happened to the characters and still hoped the book might pull off a last minute save.. It didn't.. How the sinking was treated was rushed and anti climatic. Its simply a deus machine to wrap up the 'nazi stolen treasure side plot' (LOL yep theres actually a nazi stolen treasure sub plot which overarches its clichéd ugly head all through most of the novel)...
Sigh.. I wish this could have been a great book as we finally have a book that deals with the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff and hopefully this maritime disaster can enter the popular cultures mind like the Titanic and Lusitania. But I don't think people will still be talking about this book by the end of 2018.. Its too mediocre.