Salt to the Sea
In 1945, four young people each have a different story as they work or escape from various parts of World War II. Joana is Lithuanian, with nurse's training and a fierce protective instinct. Florian is from East Prussia, and after he discovers his work restoring art was not what he thought it was, he is on the run, and has scores to settle. Emilia is Polish, eight months pregnant, alone in the world, and fleeing from Russians invading on one side of her country and Germans invading on the other. Alfred is German, and though he was late to join the army, he harbors dreams of being famous, valued, and heroic. Unfortunately, he's selfish, irresponsible, and unkind. Their four lives intersect, and this is more than the story of the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff - it explores the horrors of war and the many ways it destroys people, cultures, and families.
Although the book is almost 400 pages long, the pacing moves quickly, moving to each main character's perspective and revealing more details about their current struggles and the pasts they left behind. Although some of the things are not terribly surprising as they are revealed (Emilia's pregnancy, Alfred's status as an unreliable narrator, Florian's artwork misunderstanding), they also seem natural, without being forced. For a story with such a broad scope, the details come together well, and readers are likely to want to find out more about the real Amber Room, Wilhelm Gustloff, and refugees of war.
"My senses were so misaligned that I was nearly killed in the woods. And now the fifteen-year-old kid who saved my life was probably going to die."
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