Salt to the Sea takes place in East Prussia in 1945. The book follows four central characters as they evacuate their home countries: Emilia, a teenage, Polish orphan; Florian, a restoration artist from East Prussia; Joana, a Lithuanian nurse; and Alfred, a Nazi.Emilia and Florian meet when Florian saves Emilia from a Russian soldier. The couple runs into Joana as she is traveling with a group of refugees. Everyone is attempting to make it to West Germany to board ships and save their own lives. Throughout the journey to the evacuation ships, the refugees get to know one another. It is revealed that Emilia is eight months pregnant after an assault by Russian soldiers; Florian, the restoration artist, is on the run for stealing a piece of art from the Amber Room; and Joana feels responsible for some of the deaths of her family. By the time the group reaches the evacuation ships, their relationships are solidified. It is clear that Joana and Florian have fallen in love, and Emilia sees Florian as a symbol of good men. At this point, the group comes into contact with Alfred who is their only hope of getting tickets to the boats. They board the Wilhelm Gustoff. While on the boat the story progresses. Emilia gives birth; Joana works as a nurse; Florian hides from Nazis who are looking for him. One day, Russian torpedoes hit the Wilhelm Gustoff (the boat they are on). Quickly, the ship sinks, and thousands die. However, Joana, Florian, and Emilia’s baby can escape on a lifeboat along with a boy named Klaus. Emilia, on the other hand, finds herself on a different lifeboat with Alfred, the Nazi. It comes to light that Emilia is Polish and Alfred attempts to kill her. Ultimately, both Emilia and Alfred perish. The book concludes with a glimpse into the future. Joana and Florian live in the United States. They have Emilia’s baby, the boy Klaus, and a child of their own. In a letter sent by Clara Christensen, a Danish woman, it is told that Emilia’s body was found washed up on shore, and she was buried.
Salt to the Sea
In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff.