SALT TO THE SEA

Ruta Sepetys

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,

more …

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 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 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.

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  • Philomel Books
  • Hardcover
  • February 2016
  • 400 Pages
  • 9780399160301

Buy the Book

$18.99

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About Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys was born and raised in Michigan in a family of artists, readers, and music lovers. She is the award-winning, bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy. Ruta lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee.

Author Website

Praise

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

Compelling for both adult and teenage readers.”—New York Times Book Review

Intimate, extraordinary, artfully crafted…brilliant.”—Shelf Awareness

Discussion Questions

1. Salt to the Sea is told in multiple first-person narratives. How do you think this literary method strengthens the story? If only one character had been chosen to narrate, which would you choose and why?

2. As the novel opens and readers are introduced to each of the four protagonists, they are told by Joana, “Guilt is a hunter.” Florian states, “Fate is a hunter.” Emilia shares, “Shame is a hunter.” And Alfred declares, “Fear is a hunter.” What makes this common refrain such a powerful one? How does it immediately capture the internal conflict of each of these characters? What roles do guilt, fate, shame, and fear play in their respective lives?

3. Considering each of the main characters’ perspectives, in what ways is Salt to the Sea a story about things that have been lost? What does each character find along the way?

4. Repeated attention is called to Emilia’s pink hat. What do you think the hat symbolizes? How else does color play a role in the book as it pertains to the story and its characters?

5. Describe Florian, Emilia, Joana, and Alfred. What makes them dynamic characters? What are their strengths and weaknesses? While they each have their own unique story and come from different backgrounds, how are they similar to one another?

6. Why is Alfred unable to understand why Hannelore proudly proclaims, “I am Jewish!” as he tries to argue that half of her is “part of the master race”? What was your reaction to learning of Alfred’s role in the removal of Hannelore and her father?

7. Describe the “Alfred” in the imaginary letters written to Hannelore. How is he different from the “Frick” observed by those with whom he works and interacts on the Wilhelm Gustloff ? What does this dual perspective say about his character?

8. Why does Emilia attempt to conceal her pregnancy? In what ways do her memories and fantasies of August Kleist help her persevere through her trauma?

9. Florian’s father tells him, “You are Prussian. Make your own decisions, son.” What does he mean by this? In what ways do his words affect Florian’s decisions? In your opinion, does Florian succeed in heeding his father’s advice?

10. What is the significance of the title, Salt to the Sea? Given the magnitude of the tragedy of the Wilhelm Gustloff, does it accurately describe the events and relationships portrayed in the novel?