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Shipwreck!

Cover of Salt to the Sea
A review of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

The most tragic shipwreck in history may be one very few people remember.  It’s not the Titanic.  It is the World War II sinking of the German military transport ship Wilhelm Gustloff in January 1945.  On a ship designed to carry 1,465 passengers and crew, 10,582 desperate refugees from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, fleeing the advancing Russian troops, crammed on-board.  Two torpedoes fired from a Russian submarine sank the ship and 9,343 passengers drowned, including 5,000 children.  Ruta Sepetyas crafts a brilliant narrative from 4 different points of view.  A Latvian nurse, a German counter spy, a Polish farm girl and a Nazi seaman, all seeking escape from destruction converge on the Wilhelm Gustloff.  Each character harbors a secret, if exposed would mean their deaths.  Each must also find a way to trust, or manipulate, the others in order to survive.  This is not only a compelling lesson in lost history, it is a beautiful story of tragedy and triumph.

February 14, 2019