Salt to the Sea


War is catastrophe. It breaks families in irretrievable pieces. But those who are gone are not necessarily lost.

Ruta Sepetys' Salt to the Sea is a book that had completely reduced me to tears. Portraying cruelty amid the world's deadliest war, the novel makes up for its humane depiction of life and survival, centered on the story's four main protagonists: Joana, Alfred, Florian, and Emilia. Four teenagers each with a story to tell, the protagonists of the book speak of lost voices in the dead-cold of the war, making this novel one of the most heartbreaking stories that I have read thus far.

It is Winter 1945, and it is through different ways do these four teenagers cross paths with each other. As Russians threaten several lives in Poland, Joana, Alfred, Florian, and Emilia seek refuge by hiding from the enemy and seeking possible ways to ride the Wilhelm Gustloff  so as to shelter themselves from the pursuit of harm and danger.

This is a book that alternates between four perspectives, but, I tell you, it is done exceptionally well. Each character has a distinct voice, a terrible and dark background. Reading through each point-of-view shattered me too deeply, it was often hard for me to continue without having tears well up in my eyes.

Along with that, Salt to the Sea displays an exquisite and ravishing style of writing. Though each chapter is typically only two or three pages long, the short length of every part adds to its great effect. At several occasions, I found myself swooning at the beauty of the way such words had been woven together in one piece.

World War II is a heartbreaking tragedy, and this book writes about the war in a sense that you feel more than what you can feel. You hear the voices of the lost, the broken. The actual voices of victims. And albeit horrifying, there is hope. Hope that things like this never, in a million years, happen to harm the innocent lives of many.

★★★
jillian etc.