How wonderful it is when someone born so far away, living a life across the world, still looks back with care to where their roots are. Be it the World as a whole, nature as mother, or merely a country full of people who know exactly what your name is, and means. “Salt to the Sea” (ISBN 0399160302; 391p.; Goodreads) is the second book by Ruta Sepetys that I have read, and it confirms it: she’s wonderful.
The story is one of fleeing refugees, trapped among the two sides at war, two sides with little to no care of who dies, or who lives, as long as they can secure victory, or avoid defeat. Joana Vilkas is a nurse with consciousness weighted by the fate of her cousin, Lina Vilkas, from the previous book “Between Shades of Gray“. Lina was taken to Siberia, while Joana is running for a ship that’d take her to Germany, where she’d be reunited with her mother. Being a compassionate nurse she soon finds herself in a larger group of people. A wandering boy who just came out of the forest one day, claiming his granny never woke up. An old man, shoemaker, full of hopes, and plenty of positivism to share and spare. A giant woman they call Sorry Eva, for her mind lacks the filter when it comes to saying awful, brutal, and just disrespectful things, adding “sorry” before or after. A blind girl with great sense of people around her. And the two they will soon meet.
Florian is running for his life, shrapnel in his body making it ever harder. He needed to stop, and so the underground bunker he stumbled upon seemed heaven-sent. Inside he didn’t lose a moment assessing the situation. A rowdy Russian soldier. A girl in pink hat, probably not older than his own sister, passed out in terror. Girl, Emilia, woke up to find a corpse staring at her, and her knight, her savior, who shot him. Lifting her own fears, and secrets up, she follows him, as the last good man on Earth.
Their destination is one: get on a ship to Germany. Russians are not only already surrounding the refugees, but are pressing in too. It was wonderful to see what broke people to put their darkest secrets into the hands of others. How among dread, and terror, hope in, and for humanity was born. I give it a firm 5 out of 5 for I could not possibly give it less.