Salt To The Sea by Ruta SepetysSalt To The Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt To The Sea

byRuta Sepetys

Hardcover | February 2, 2016

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New York Times Bestseller and winner of the Carnegie Medal! "Masterfully crafted"The Wall Street Journal

For readers of Between Shades of Gray and All the Light We Cannot See, 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—adults and children alike—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 Gustloffthe 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 and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.

Praise for Salt to the Sea:

Featured on NPR's Morning Edition  ♦  "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  ♦  "Riveting...powerful...haunting."—The Washington Post  ♦ "Compelling for both adult and teenage readers."—New York Times Book Review  ♦  "Intimate, extraordinary, artfully crafted...brilliant."—Shelf Awareness  ♦  "Historical fiction at its very, very best."—The Globe and Mail  ♦  "[H]aunting, heartbreaking, hopeful and altogether gorgeous...one of the best young-adult novels to appear in a very long time."—Salt Lake Tribune  ♦  *"This haunting gem of a novel begs to be remembered."—Booklist  ♦  *"Artfully told and sensitively crafted...will leave readers weeping."—School Library Journal  ♦  A PW and SLJ 2016 Book of the Year

Praise for Between Shades of Gray:
A New York Times Notable Book  ♦  A Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book  ♦  A PWSLJ, Booklist, and Kirkus Best Book  ♦  iTunes 2011 Rewind Best Teen Novel  ♦  A Carnegie Medal and William C. Morris Finalist  ♦  A New York Times and International Bestseller  ♦  "Few books are beautifully written, fewer still are important; this novel is both."—The Washington Post  ♦  *"[A]n important book that deserves the widest possible readership."—Booklist
Ruta Sepetys (www.rutasepetys.com) 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. Follow her on Twitter at @RutaSepetys.
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Title:Salt To The SeaFormat:HardcoverDimensions:400 pages, 8.56 × 5.88 × 1.31 inPublished:February 2, 2016Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0399160302

ISBN - 13:9780399160301

Customer Reviews of Salt To The Sea

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from SO Powerful This author is steadily becoming a voice for the untold stories of the second World War. The time and research put into this piece of historical fiction is evident. This book is a powerful story of the casualties of war as seen through the eyes of children who saw and experienced far too much. A beautiful, powerful and sobering novel. I recommend to anyone and everyone, but especially those who want to know more about what living in the time of the second World War was like.
Date published: 2017-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was amazing! This is such a beautiful story! All the characters were interesting to read and I highly recommend this to anyone who loves reading historical fiction.
Date published: 2017-06-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys Such a thrilling read! The main characters were all so interesting and I loved how much mystery and tension there was in each of their stories. I also loved the rich world building! I'm not usually big on history, but I loved the way the history was presented here. Between the setting and the writing, everything was SO vivid, which just amped up the intensity.Overall, this was a fantastic historical standalone. I definitely recommend it, especially if you like emotionally gripping reads with lots of tension and fascinating characters!
Date published: 2017-05-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring It's a well written narrative, told from many different perspectives that vary from first and third person, with a lot of different opinions and views being shared; I came to understand everyone's motives and perspectives, and empathized with a lot of them. This book definitely made me feel a lot of things;
Date published: 2017-04-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing Book This book was actually good
Date published: 2017-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from amazing historical fiction I highly recommend this book! #indigoemployee
Date published: 2017-03-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Meh This is a good book, but I'm a big fan of historical fiction, and this wasn't <i>as</i> good as I had expected. I feel like the book would have been much better had it not been for one of the main POVs (you'll know who I'm talking about when you read it). I did love that Salt to the Sea talked about an event that isn't often discussed, and the writing was excellent, but it just didn't really work for me. I will be reading more of this author's work, though.
Date published: 2017-03-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Stunning historical fiction read! This is a stunning historical fiction piece based during WWII and depicts the lives of different people from different regions. They are all connected by one horrible fate. Ruta writes about the greatest maritime tragedy the world has seen. This book alternates between these characters POV's as it depicts the story of the greatest maritime tragedy. A tragedy I had never heard of until this book. This is a very interesting and well-executed historical fiction. I really want to read Ruta Sepetys other historical fictions.
Date published: 2017-02-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unique format, excellent writing from a youth perspective 4.5 stars. This was a very compelling and intense piece of historical fiction. Sepetys did a fantastic job of showing you the issues of the period from many vantage points. I would stress that it is for a mature audience as it deals with some difficult topics. My two teenagers, 13 and 15, told me to add that note to the review. The author's note at the end is especially poignant; to keep the memories and stories alive so history is not repeated.
Date published: 2017-01-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Book for any lover of any genre. Sometimes, I agree with other people that books could seriously be remedies. Whether it is a remedy for a broken heart, for a bad day, for a good day, for a snowy day, for a sunny day, I believe that every book contains some kind of magic that could make a person feel great/horrible but still always enjoying it in one way or another. For me, and for the past few years where I have been experiencing Ruta Sepetys' writing, I found that her writing provided me with some kind of happiness/sadness—more of a depressing feeling, but that was ought to happen anyways. Historical fiction novels always seem to hit the heart, but Ruta's writing causes me to become (a) more obsessed, (b) a person with higher expectations and (c) want to become a cover designer. Because damn, THAT COVER IS SPECTACULAR. "For the first time in years, people cared for me. Protected me. I looked down at Halinka. I could actually feel her. She was mine. I was hers. Her perfect cheeks and fingers were pink, just like my hat. What the knight said was true. She was part of me, my family, and Poland." (301) Salt to the Sea caused my heart to go on a literal roller coaster ride. We readers get to know four teenagers with four different hometowns/countries, four different secrets and roles that carry out throughout this thrilling novel. Florian, Alfred, Joana and Emilia. My heart goes out to them. As always, Ruta Sepetys somehow causes readers to create a bond with each of this character that extends beyond the actual story and its pages. I still am thinking about the "ever after" of these characters. That must tell you something. Something exquisite. Something marvellous. Something that a positive adjective can describe. As always, Ruta's words combine with her dramatic settings and message, throwing in a great read for any reader. I have always been a fan of World War Two action novels that are simply YA. I like the emotions and romance, and one of those stories that seems so real that readers feel like the author must have heard the story somewhere and wrote it down. Those experiences can make a girl feel so happy. When I heard that the author was releasing a new book after the astonishing Between the Shades of Gray, I became more obsessed than I ever had been to get my hands on this story. Each character is somehow placed into each other's lives and the magic has really spun to create something memorable. "Fate is a hunter. Its barrel pressed against my forehead." (347) The only thing I could complain about is the plot. I loved the idea of creating a story that provided readers an action story that is taking place in a time era that had so many mixes of situations that affected everyone differently. This was an utterly long novel, and I wish more came out of the middle portion where I was bored. For a wartime novel where things go boom, boom, boom quickly, I certainly was surprised, though this had not caused my reading experience to be horrible in any way whatsoever. Get ready for the ships. And by ships, I literally mean actual boats and relationships. The four teenagers who are mentioned here actually all do have their own special quirk that made me love each of them separately for separate reasons. My favourite character, you ask? Alfred. DUH. You'll see why, my friends.
Date published: 2017-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New Favourite I LOVE this book! It's a fast read not only because of the short chapters, but because it's just so good! The pacing is perfect and the story has such an impact. Ruta Sepetys doesn't sugar coat; she's is not scared to tell the truth. That's what this book is about! To tell the story of the people who suffered through the war and the tragic sinking of the Wilhem Gustloff and it is perfectly told. I'd recommend it to anyone and everyone
Date published: 2016-12-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Well done This story was very well done. Sepetys did a marvelous job weaving the stories of 4 main protagonists and side-characters from different backgrounds together. I think this would be fantastic as a movie.
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Tragic, hopeful, and educational - Salt to the Sea explores a lesser-known moment in our history. Ruta Sepetys does not disappoint with her third historical fictional novel.
Date published: 2016-11-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A For the Lover of Books Review Number of pages: 400 Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1 Rating (out of five stars): 4 I definitely enjoyed reading Salt to the Sea more than I enjoyed reading Between Shades of Gray. Salt to the Sea is overall more compelling, more complex, and more interesting than Between Shades of Gray was. Salt to the Sea gives you 4 very different, complex characters and makes you want to unravel their stories. Let’s start with the characters. Our cast of main characters consists of a delusional German, a kind Lithuanian Nurse, a skeptical Prussian artist, and a terrified Polish girl. I think that it was wonderful to see how all four character’s stories intertwined, though they were all very different. I enjoyed how each character could be interpreted differently, depending on the reader. The main character I was disgusted by could easily be pitied, one of the characters I found to be immature and whinny is also brave and mature in some scenes, and one of my favorite characters could easily be hated because they are a criminal. Complexity makes the best characters. (Side note: was anyone else disgusted by Alfred from his second chapter?). I also loved the side characters. There was opinionated, selfish Eva, Ingrid, a blind girl with heightened other senses, and the shoe poet, who I wish was my grandfather. Salt to the Sea is one of those books for which short chapters really work, because it allows you to leave the perspective of a character you hate rather quickly. The short chapters also keeps you in suspense, as  you spend so little time with the character that you need keep reading more and more to even partly piece together their life. As I said in my Between Shades of Gray review, I love reading about history, especially obscure historical events, and if you want to read about those events in a YA setting, Ruta Sepetys is the author for you. I am a person who avoids mention of World War 2 like the plague, because it just makes me incredibly uncomfortable and upset (not that other events haven’t made me upset, uncomfortable, and disgusted at the kinds of despicable humans that can exist, World War 2 is just one of the big historical ones), but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to learn about this tragedy that I knew nothing about. I think that if you are like me and genuinely enjoy learning, you will enjoy Sepetys’ books. Overall, Salt to the Sea was a gripping and emotional read, and I grant it 4 stars out of 5.
Date published: 2016-08-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A For the Lover of Books Review Number of pages: 400 Number of times read (including the time before this review): 1 Rating (out of five stars): 4 I definitely enjoyed reading Salt to the Sea more than I enjoyed reading Between Shades of Gray. Salt to the Sea is overall more compelling, more complex, and more interesting than Between Shades of Gray was. Salt to the Sea gives you 4 very different, complex characters and makes you want to unravel their stories. Let’s start with the characters. Our cast of main characters consists of a delusional German, a kind Lithuanian Nurse, a skeptical Prussian artist, and a terrified Polish girl. I think that it was wonderful to see how all four character’s stories intertwined, though they were all very different. I enjoyed how each character could be interpreted differently, depending on the reader. The main character I was disgusted by could easily be pitied, one of the characters I found to be immature and whinny is also brave and mature in some scenes, and one of my favorite characters could easily be hated because they are a criminal. Complexity makes the best characters. (Side note: was anyone else disgusted by Alfred from his second chapter?). I also loved the side characters. There was opinionated, selfish Eva, Ingrid, a blind girl with heightened other senses, and the shoe poet, who I wish was my grandfather. Salt to the Sea is one of those books for which short chapters really work, because it allows you to leave the perspective of a character you hate rather quickly. The short chapters also keeps you in suspense, as  you spend so little time with the character that you need keep reading more and more to even partly piece together their life. As I said in my Between Shades of Gray review, I love reading about history, especially obscure historical events, and if you want to read about those events in a YA setting, Ruta Sepetys is the author for you. I am a person who avoids mention of World War 2 like the plague, because it just makes me incredibly uncomfortable and upset (not that other events haven’t made me upset, uncomfortable, and disgusted at the kinds of despicable humans that can exist, World War 2 is just one of the big historical ones), but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to learn about this tragedy that I knew nothing about. I think that if you are like me and genuinely enjoy learning, you will enjoy Sepetys’ books. Overall, Salt to the Sea was a gripping and emotional read, and I grant it 4 stars out of 5.
Date published: 2016-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautifully written, beautifully heartbreaking In the winter of 1945 in Eastern Prussia four young lives experience the horrors and courage’s of war while guarding their own dark secrets. When the Nazi Reich falls, thousands flee the advance of the Soviets. Based on the little-known sinking of the German ship Wilhem Gustloff, this powerful read will appeal to ages 13 to adult.
Date published: 2016-07-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from LOVE I am now haunted by Ruta Sepetys storytelling.. Well the story is fictional but the events and the "Gustloff" were real.. That is something to think about. But yes okay back to the book. Wonderful story-telling. Quick chapters. Four different viewpoints. Pretty predictable. But in a good way. The journey is always the hardest and the characters are just trying to survive. Some parts were horrific to imagine and yet I'm sure are the real-life accounts of what actually happened. What separates the real from fiction, I do not know and I really don't want to know. The characters each had their own past and you can see how hard they're all struggling to be the person they were before the war started. I honestly didn't really think the romance was necessary, but if love can blossom even in war-torn stories, then I'm all up for it. Alfred was the creepiest one to read through, and I found myself skimming his entries mostly because they were diary-style and I disliked him the most with his disgusting "master race" thoughts. War books are always so hard for me. After the masterpiece that was "The Book Thief" I am always open to reading anything and everything about World War Two. Even if it's from the German's viewpoint. Things mentioned in the book that stayed with me for a long time. "Pure bloods" were mentioned and I also wonder if that's where J. K. Rowling got this heinous word.. I wouldn't be surprised since it's from the Nazis. The disgusting viewpoint of one German who only thought of himself while people were being murdered. "Bodies were strewn like human confetti. Would I still get my medal?" (345) Grab this one if you're looking for a little piece of world history that is not widely known. How many other stories are hidden from the world's view just because it was in experiences through war? Now that is something I'm pondering after reading this.
Date published: 2016-03-10

Read from the Book

joanaGuilt is a hunter.  My conscience mocked me, picking fights like a petulant child. It’s all your fault, the voice whispered. I quickened my pace and caught up with our small group. The Germans would march us off the field road if they found us. Roads were reserved for the military. Evacuation orders hadn’t been issued and anyone fleeing East Prussia was branded a deserter. But what did that matter? I became a deserter four years ago, when I fled from Lithuania. Lithuania. I had left in 1941. What was happening at home? Were the dreadful things whispered in the streets true? We approached a mound on the side of the road. The small boy in front of me whimpered and pointed. He had joined us two days prior, just wandered out of the forest alone and quietly began following us. “Hello, little one. How old are you?” I had asked. “Six,” he replied. “Who are you traveling with?” He paused and dropped his head. “My Omi.” I turned toward the woods to see if his grandmother had emerged. “Where is your Omi now?” I asked. The wandering boy looked up at me, his pale eyes wide. “She didn’t wake up.” So the little boy traveled with us, often drifting just slightly ahead or behind. And now he stood, pointing to a flap of dark wool beneath a meringue of snow. I waved the group onward and when everyone advanced I ran to the snow-covered heap. The wind lifted a layer of icy flakes revealing the dead blue face of a woman, probably in her twenties. Her mouth and eyes were hinged open, fixed in fear. I dug through her iced pockets, but they had already been picked. In the lining of her jacket I found her identification papers. I stuffed them in my coat to pass on to the Red Cross and dragged her body off the road and into the field. She was dead, frozen solid, but the thought of tanks rolling over her was more than I could bear. I ran back to the road and our group. The wandering boy stood in the center of the path, snow falling all around him. “She didn’t wake up either?” he asked quietly. I shook my head and took his mittened hand in mine. And then we both heard it in the distance. Bang.     florianFate is a hunter. Engines buzzed in a swarm above. Der Schwarze Tod, “the Black Death,” they called them. I hid beneath the trees. The planes weren’t visible, but I felt them. Close. Trapped by darkness both ahead and behind, I weighed my options. An explosion detonated and death crept closer, curling around me in fingers of smoke. I ran. My legs churned, sluggish, disconnected from my racing mind. I willed them to move, but my conscience noosed around my ankles and pulled down hard. “You are a talented young man, Florian.” That’s what Mother had said. “You are Prussian. Make your own decisions, son,” said my father. Would he have approved of my decisions, of the secrets I now carried across my back? Amidst this war between Hitler and Stalin, would Mother still consider me talented, or criminal? The Soviets would kill me. But how would they torture me first? The Nazis would kill me, but only if they uncovered the plan. How long would it remain a secret? The questions propelled me forward, whipping through the cold forest, dodging branches. I clutched my side with one hand, my pistol with the other. The pain surged with each breath and step, releasing warm blood out of the angry wound. The sound of the engines faded. I had been on the run for days and my mind felt as weak as my legs. The hunter preyed on the fatigued and weary. I had to rest. The pain slowed me to a jog and finally a walk. Through the dense trees in the forest I spied branches hiding an old potato cellar. I jumped in. Bang.     emilia Shame is a hunter. I would rest a moment. I had a moment, didn’t I? I slid across the cold, hard earth toward the back of the cave. The ground quivered. Soldiers were close. I had to move but felt so tired. It was a good idea to put branches over the mouth of the forest cellar. Wasn’t it? No one would trek this far off the road. Would they? I pulled the pink woolen cap down over my ears and tugged my coat closed near my throat. Despite my bundled layers, January’s teeth bit sharp. My fingers had lost all feeling. Pieces of my hair, frozen crisp to my collar, tore as I turned my head. So I thought of August. My eyes dropped closed. And then they opened. A Russian soldier was there. He leaned over me with a light, poking my shoulder with his pistol. I jumped, frantically pushing myself back. “Fräulein.” He grinned, pleased that I was alive. “Komme, Fräulein. How old are you?” “Fifteen,” I whispered. “Please, I’m not German. Nicht Deutsche.” He didn’t listen, didn’t understand, or didn’t care. He pointed his gun at me and yanked at my ankle. “Shh, Fräulein.” He lodged the gun under the bone of my chin. I pleaded. I put my hands across my stomach and begged. He moved forward. No. This would not happen. I turned my head. “Shoot me, soldier. Please.” Bang.     alfred Fear is a hunter. But brave warriors, we brush away fear with a flick of the wrist. We laugh in the face of fear, kick it like a stone across the street. Yes, Hannelore, I compose these letters in my mind first, as I cannot abandon my men as often as I think of you. You would be proud of your watchful companion, sailor Alfred Frick. Today I saved a young woman from falling into the sea. It was nothing really, but she was so grateful she clung to me, not wanting to let go. “Thank you, sailor.” Her warm whisper lingered in my ear. She was quite pretty and smelled like fresh eggs, but there have been many grateful and pretty girls. Oh, do not be concerned. You and your red sweater are foremost in my thoughts. How fondly, how incessantly, I think of my Hannelore and red-sweater days. I’m relieved you are not here to see this. Your sugared heart could not bear the treacherous circumstances here in the port of Gotenhafen. At this very moment, I am guarding dangerous explosives. I am serving Germany well. Only seventeen, yet carrying more valor than those twice my years. There is talk of an honor ceremony but I’m too busy fighting for the Führer to accept honors. Honors are for the dead, I’ve told them. We must fight while we are alive! Yes, Hannelore, I shall prove to all of Germany. There is indeed a hero inside of me. Bang. I abandoned my mental letter and crouched in the supply closet, hoping no one would find me. I did not want to go outside.      florian I stood in the forest cellar, my gun fixed on the dead Russian. The back of his head had departed from his skull. I rolled him off the woman. She wasn’t a woman. She was a girl in a pink woolen cap. And she had fainted. I scavenged through the Russian’s frozen pockets and took cigarettes, a flask, a large sausage wrapped in paper, his gun, and ammunition. He wore two watches on each wrist, trophies collected from his victims. I didn’t touch them. Crouching near the corner of the cellar, I scanned the cold chamber for signs of food but saw none. I put the ammunition in my pack, careful not to disturb the small box wrapped in a cloth. The box. How could something so small hold such power? Wars had been waged over less. Was I really willing to die for it? I gnawed at the dried sausage, savoring the saliva it produced. The ground vibrated slightly. This Russian wasn’t alone. There would be more. I had to move. I turned the top on the soldier’s flask and raised it to my nose. Vodka. I opened my coat, then my shirt, and poured the alcohol down my side. The intensity of the pain produced a flash in front of my eyes. My ruptured flesh fought back, twisting and pulsing. I took a breath, bit back a yell, and tortured the gash with the remainder of the alcohol. The girl stirred in the dirt. Her head snapped away from the dead Russian. Her eyes scanned the gun at my feet and the flask in my hand. She sat up, blinking. Her pink hat slid from her head and fell silently into the dirt. The side of her coat was streaked with blood. She reached into her pocket. I threw down the flask and grabbed the gun. She opened her mouth and spoke. Polish.     emilia The Russian soldier stared at me, mouth open, eyes empty. Dead. What had happened? Crouching in the corner was a young man dressed in civilian clothes. His coat and shirt were unfastened, his skin bloodied and bruised to a deep purple. He held a gun. Was he going to shoot me? No, he had killed the Russian. He had saved me. “Are you okay?” I asked, barely recognizing my own voice. His face twisted at the sound of my words. He was German. I was Polish. He would want nothing to do with me. Adolf Hitler had declared that Polish people were subhuman. We were to be destroyed so the Germans could have the land they needed for their empire. Hitler said Germans were superior and would not live among Poles. We were not Germanizable. But our soil was. I pulled a potato from my pocket and held it out to him. “Thank you.” The dirt pulsed slightly. How much time had passed? “We have to go,” I told him. I tried to use my best German. In my head the sentences were intact, but I wasn’t sure they came out that way. Sometimes when I spoke German people laughed at me and then I knew my words were wrong. I lowered my arm and saw my sleeve, splattered with Russian blood. Would this ever end? Tears stirred inside of me. I did not want to cry. The German stared at me, a combination of fatigue and frustration. But I understood. His eyes on the potato said, Emilia, I’m hungry. The dried blood on his shirt said, Emilia, I’m injured. But the way he clutched his pack told me the most. Emilia, don’t touch this.     joana We trudged farther down the narrow road. Fifteen refugees. The sun had finally surrendered and the temperature followed. A blind girl ahead of me, Ingrid, held a rope tethered to a horse-drawn cart. I had my sight, but we shared a handicap: we both walked into a dark corridor of combat, with no view of what lay ahead. Perhaps her lost vision was a gift. The blind girl could hear and smell things that the rest of us couldn’t. Did she hear the last gasp of the old man as he slipped under the wheels of a cart several kilometers back? Did she taste coins in her mouth when she walked over the fresh blood in the snow? “Heartbreaking. They killed her,” said a voice behind me. It was the old shoemaker. I stopped and allowed him to catch up. “The frozen woman back there,” he continued. “Her shoes killed her. I keep telling them, but they don’t listen. Poorly made shoes will torture your feet, inhibit your progress. Then you will stop.” He squeezed my arm. His soft red face peered out from beneath his hat. “And then you will die,” he whispered. The old man spoke of nothing but shoes. He spoke of them with such love and emotion that a woman in our group had crowned him “the shoe poet.” The woman disappeared a day later but the nickname survived. “The shoes always tell the story,” said the shoe poet. “Not always,” I countered. “Yes, always. Your boots, they are expensive, well made. That tells me that you come from a wealthy family. But the style is one made for an older woman. That tells me they probably belonged to your mother. A mother sacrificed her boots for her daughter. That tells me you are loved, my dear. And your mother is not here, so that tells me that you are sad, my dear. The shoes tell the story.” I paused in the center of the frozen road and watched the stubby old cobbler shuffle ahead of me. The shoe poet was right. Mother had sacrificed for me. When we fled from Lithuania she rushed me to Insterburg and, through a friend, arranged for me to work in the hospital. That was four years ago. Where was Mother now? I thought of the countless refugees trekking toward freedom. How many millions of people had lost their home and family during the war? I had agreed with Mother to look to the future, but secretly I dreamed of returning to the past. Had anyone heard from my father or brother? The blind girl put her face to the sky and raised her arm in signal. And then I heard them. Planes.     florian We had barely crawled out of the potato cellar when the Polish girl began to cry. She knew I was going to leave her. I had no choice. She would slow me down. Hitler aimed to destroy all Poles. They were Slavic, branded inferior. My father said the Nazis had killed millions of Poles. Polish intellectuals were savagely executed in public. Hitler set up extermination camps in German-occupied Poland, filtering the blood of innocent Jews into the Polish soil. Hitler was a coward. That had been one thing Father and I agreed upon. “Proszę . . . bitte,” she begged, alternating between Polish and broken German. I couldn’t stand to look at her, at the streaks of dead Russian splattered down her sleeve. I started to walk away, her sobs flapping behind me. “Wait. Please,” she called out. The sound of her crying was painfully familiar. It had the exact tone of my younger sister, Anni, and the sobs I heard through the hallway the day Mother took her last breath. Anni. Where was she? Was she too in some dark forest hole with a gun to her head? A pain ripped through my side, forcing me to stop. The girl’s feet quickly approached. I resumed walking. “Thank you,” she chirped from behind. The sun disappeared and the cold tightened its fist. My calculations told me that I needed to walk another two kilometers west before stopping for the night. There was a better chance of finding shelter along a field road, but also a better chance of running into troops. It was wiser to continue along the edge of the forest. The girl heard them before I did. She grabbed my arm. The buzzing of aircraft engines surged fast and close from behind. The Russians were targeting German ground troops nearby. Were they in front of us or beside us? The bombs began falling. With each explosion, every bone in my body vibrated and hammered, clanging violently against the bell tower that was my flesh. The sound of anti-aircraft fire rang through the sky, answering the initial blasts. The girl tried to pull me onward. I shoved her away. “Run!” She shook her head, pointed forward, and awkwardly tried to pull me through the snow. I wanted to run, forget about her, leave her in the forest. But then I saw the droplets of blood in the snow coming from beneath her bulky coat. And I could not.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Salt to the Sea:"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 bestselling 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 bestselling author of An Ember in the Ashes * "Sepetys excels in shining light on lost chapters of history, and this visceral novel proves a memorable testament to strength and resilience in the face of war and cruelty." —Publishers Weekly, starred review  * "This haunting gem of a novel begs to be remembered, and in turn, it tries to remember the thousands of real people its fictional characters represent. What it asks of us is that their memories, and their stories, not be abandoned to the sea." —Booklist, starred review * "Artfully told and sensitively crafted, Sepetys’s exploration of this little-known piece of history will leave readers weeping." —School Library Journal, starred review"The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn't change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning. Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful." —Kirkus "This book includes all the reasons why teens read:  for knowledge, for romance, for amazing and irritating characters.  This novel will break readers’ hearts and then put them back together a little more whole." —VOYA"Sepetys’s...scene-setting is impeccable; the penetrating cold of the journey is palpable, and she excels at conveying the scope of the losses while giving them a human face....[T]his elegiac tale succeeds with impressive research, affecting characters, and keen, often unsettling insights into humans’ counterposed tendencies toward evil and nobility. Readers will be left to discuss which impulse triumphs here." —The Horn Book