What it is: Salt to the Sea is a gripping fictional retelling of the ill-fated escape of four young adults from occupied Eastern Europe on the German evacuation ship Wilhelm Gustloff. The story shows the crossroads of a hunted Polish immigrant, a rogue German soldier on a mission of revenge, a fleeing Lithuanian medical student, and a fanatical German patriot, and the different length each person must go to preserve themselves and those they love. It resonates with longing, suffering, hope, and nobility.
Why I liked it: I’ve always been a sucker for WWII fiction, but Salt to the Sea is one of the finest I’ve read. The characters are realistic, complicated, compelling, and heartbreaking. Sepetys is a master storyteller, weaving her tale using only a few pages at a time from each character. The result is a vibrant and unforgettable mosaic that speaks to the loss and ultimate resilience of the victims of the second war.
Read if you liked: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein