World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many 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. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.
Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
Simply put, this is an amazing book. I didn’t think Sepetys could write a book that compared to her previous title Between Shades of Gray. This one does, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. Amazingly, I didn’t know anything about the Wilhelm Gustloff prior to reading this book, as well as the massive loss of life that resulted from this surge of refugees in 1945. I also didn’t realize that Poland was invaded by both the Russians and the Germans within weeks of each other. This story brings the time period to life beautifully.
While it is considered a teen book, I couldn’t put it down, and I think it should be on everyone’s “to read” list. Find it in our catalog here!