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As World War II draws to a close,
refugees try to escape the war's final dangers,
only to find themselves aboard a ship with a target on its hull
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
Publication: First Printing edition (February 2, 2016)
Pages: 400 pages
Text copyright © 2016 by Ruta Sepetys
Map illustrations copyright © 2016 Katrina Damkoehler
Jacket images: Image Depot Pro, Doug Armand
Photo illustration: Travis Commeau
Design by Theresa Evangelista
Author photo: Magda Starowieyska / Fotorzepa
Book clubbin' with Ruta
Told in alternating short chapters from the four main characters' point-of-view, these teenagers and their secrets had everything riding on the line to secure their future from the present they were trying to out-run. What would you do ... or say, knowing if you stayed where you are, diffidently your future was to bleak to imagine living through?
A story wonderful of past events screaming to be heard through Ruta's penmanship, because sadly, no one could have heard their screams.
Nor their tears.
Salt to the Sea.
When I first started out on this read, it was hard for me to appreciate the short alternating points of view. The chapters could have been a bit longer for me, folks. Way too short and to add, the sentences were a bit too choppy, even for a young YA read. Worried I was headache bound, I did have a personal curiosity to quell from the title and with my partner, patience, we read on. OK, war in mind and a ship that sunk carrying with her the greatest loss of human life ever to be floating on the open seas ~Welcome to ~ Salt to the Sea ...
This tale takes you on a fictional journey near the end of WW II. When the Allied forces were gaining ground, the German civilians were evacuating. Fleeing toward the Baltic Sea, where the German navy will transport them to safety. The tale surrounds actual real things, folks. There was/is/a Operation Hannibal (largest sea evacuation in modern history), The Amber Room (once called the eighth wonder of the world - disappeared during the war and remains a mystery of WW II), MV Wilhelm Gustloff (was sunk by the Soviet submarine S-13). All three were as colorful as their history, though, the fictional main characters she created were not as colorful.
The four main characters are Joana Vilkas, a Lithuanian whom is haunted by her conscience. Florian Beck, a former art restorer has a secret he is carrying and knows if the Soviets capture him, he will be killed and if the Germans capture him, they too, will kill him. There is pregnant Emilia Stozek with her secret and there is Alfred Frick, the pipe dreamer. Alfred, I thought at first, was a loose cannon I was going to keep my eye on. He mentally writes these letters to Hannelore Jager; she seems to be his lover back home. These letters he never writes down on paper nor does he send them. Pretty much throughout the novel he is living in this fantasy world where he tells Hannelore of all the brave accomplishments in his military duty and how dangerous his job is and how he rescued a beautiful young woman. He also hides a lot.
Sepetys did give you their background and their motivations, yet, the characters were pretty much one dimensional. The secondary characters were very interesting and intrigued me more than the simple main characters. I dug Heinz, the shoe poet. This character had me smiling and enjoying his dialogue with every turn he made. His comments concerning shoes and how the shoes tell the real story of the person wearing them. And, his familial instincts toward Klaus, the wandering boy, was a treasure.
I did appreciate the historical events that were peppered throughout the tale. I went away from the read content on those notes. But, flooding chapters with 'memorable' repeated names - the pink hat, the shoe poet, the wandering boy, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., (you get my point) My word, that was annoying. These characters have names Ruta, please use them and just pepper your tale with those 'pet' names. I shake my head and wonder why authors do that annoying thing.
As the tale went on, her pace was okay for my tastes, but, the settings were mediocre. Sometimes I was with them in the cold and most of the time I was reading a story. Until toward the end, when all hell was breaking loose while the ship was sinking. Her descriptive writing, folks, was there; As if Sepetys wanted to make sure you're flipping pages and has your attention. I could picture the scenes quite well and I imagined how damn cold that water had to have been. All those people, young and old. Thousands upon thousands filling the stairwells and corridors trying to get to one of the 22 lifeboats. 22? Oops. They were missing 10 of them folks. Now, this is winter. January to be exact and could you imagine, some of those remaining lifeboats are not operable for one reason and the next.
The visual descriptions of the pandemonium and death were clear. I could see those children legs up in the air while the rest of their body floated below the surface, upside down in their life vests. People slipping off the side of the ship plunging into/onto ....
The young man who pleaded to be hoisted up into a lifeboat, yet he was over-ruled with the thought of the boat capsizing. As he clung on the side of the boat in the freezing water, "Would you please at least warm my hands?" Did he make it? Folks, you will be turning pages to see if, or you're hoping to see if your favorite character of the story survives.
Though the ending did clear the air on Emilia's baby Halinka and Klaus from Emilia's heroics, the ending did not totally satisfy me. Even though some loose ends were tied up and neatly explained, a lot of secrets came out where I felt there really wasn't much time for the resolve and the last few pages were confusing.
On a bittersweet note folks, 23 years later, there was a letter received offering comfort for some unknown answers to questions one character had floating around in their head. I did read the letter twice and no, it was not from Mr. Pipe Dreamer. I will say, the letter made closing the book - worth my time.
So you ask, would I recommend?
Thumbs up for those historical buffs looking for a little action during a read!
Here's where you can get your fingers on Salt to the Sea:
- Amazon ~ Hardback $15.19 ~ Paperback $8.79 ~ Kindle $9.99 USD
- Barnes & Noble ~ Hardcover $17.09 ~ Paperback $8.79 ~ NOOK $9.99 USD
- IndieBound ~ Support your local bookstores
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About the author ~
Ruta is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. Born in Michigan, she was raised in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. Ruta attended college to study opera but instead graduated with a degree in International Finance. Prior to publishing her first novel, she spent twenty years in the music industry helping artists and songwriters distill story through song.
Sepetys is the first American crossover novelist to address both European Parliament and Library of Congress. She was awarded The Rockefeller Foundation’s prestigious Bellagio Resident Fellowship for Salt to the Sea.
Ruta was recently bestowed the Cross of the Knight of the Order by the President of Lithuania for her contributions to education and memory preservation. She is intensely proud to be Lithuanian, even if that means she has a name no one can pronounce.
Ruta lives in a treehouse in the hills of Tennessee.
Based on Ruta Sepetys acclaimed novel ~ Between Shades of Gray 2012
Ashes in the Snow
Bel Powley and Jonah Hauer-King
"Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both." --The Washington Post
Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life -- until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?
A moving and haunting novel perfect for readers of The Book Thief.
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