Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.


This story is based on a maritime tragedy of epic proportions. While reading, I felt in awe of the fact that I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff.  I’m not sure how that’s possible. What initially drew me to this book was the cover; that has to be one of the most  ‘indicative of the story’ covers I’ve come across! It’s haunting , yet intriguing at the same time because I wanted to find out what led to that picture.

I really don’t want to give anything away plot wise; you already know there’s a maritime tragedy involved so the beauty of this story is finding out what led to it and who are the characters involved that we are inevitably going to get attached to, worry about, and hope for their survival.

The story is told from four alternating viewpoints with very short chapters which led me to quickly keep turning the pages . There’s Joana, a fleeing Lithuanian who’s guilt over her past threatens to engulf her; Florian, a handsome wounded Prussian who’s carrying many secrets; Emilia, a young Polish girl who’s seen and experienced great tragedy but sadly feels the heaviness of shame and grief; and Alfred, a very odd German sailor who seems to live in an alternate reality most of the time. Somehow, their paths will collide and each will have to decide how much of their secrets they are willing to expose to the others. Along the way, we meet several other characters who will pull at your heartstrings…the wandering boy, the shoe poet and Eva were my favorite. I think the author’s writing shines with her ability to bring all these characters to life with their unique quirks, knowledge and personalities. They became real people who’s plights I felt and worried about; there was an underlying tension and dread I experienced while reading as I wondered if everyone I had grown to care about would live and if not who would die? That’s suspenseful reading don’t you think?

If you’ve already read and enjoyed The Book Thief and/or All the Light We Cannot See as I have, I think you’ll also enjoy this story. Not only did I find this to be a riveting, fast-paced page turner, it taught me about a little known tragedy in our history.

5/5 Stars

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to stop by and read my posts these last couple months, I so appreciate it and as this is my last post until after Christmas, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays to you! I’ll be back next week with my first Blog Tour for Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions as well as my top 10 (or so) reads of 2016!! 




I thought I’d try something new today as my reviews have become sporadic due to the busyness of the holidays although I promise to get back on track with reading and reviewing very soon:) In the meantime, Tuesday First Chapter/First paragraph is hosted by Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea and highlights the first paragraph (or 2) of a current or future read that she decided to read based on the opening.

The opener I’ve chosen is from a book that’s been on my want to read list for quite awhile based only on the cover, which to me looks intriguing, yet tragic.

Published Feb 2016 by Philomel Books


Guilt is a hunter.

My conscience mocked me, picking fights like a petulant child. It’s all your fault, the voice whispered. I quickened my pace and caught up with our small group. The Germans would march us off the road if they found us. Roads were reserved for the military. Evacuation orders hadn’t been issued and anyone fleeing East Prussia was branded a deserter. But what did that matter? I became a deserter four years ago, when I fled from Lithuania. I had left in 1941. What was happening at home? Were the dreadful things whispered in the streets true?

We approached a mound on the side of the road. The small boy in front of me whimpered and pointed. He had joined us two days prior, just wandered out of the forest alone and quietly began following us.

“Hello, little one. How old are you?” I had asked.

“Six,” he replied.

“Who are you traveling with?” He paused and dropped his head. “My Omi.”

I turned toward the woods to see if his grandmother had emerged. “Where is your Omi now?” I asked.

The wandering boy looked up at me, his pale eyes wide. “She didn’t wake up.”

So, what do you think? Would you keep reading based on this intro or pass? I most definitely have kept reading (I’m halfway through) and I can tell you, this book’s not only well-written, but I’m invested in the characters, they have become real…the book’s cover is really haunting me now!

Check back soon….maybe even tomorrow for my full review!