I lived across the border and we knew nothing about what was happening 150 km away. Maybe the adults knew some things, but it was never discussed in our presence. Romania was not spoken about. We only learned about Romanians in early nighties. When the Soviet Union fell, my mother travelled to Romania to sell basic food items, as many people from Moldova did. She was so upset by the poverty she saw there that she gave the sugar, pasta and rice for free to a Romanian, a mother like herself.
I love Sepetys’ writing because she gives a voice to those we will not read about in history books. She makes us aware about the way the history would be told by young and elderly, by mothers and sisters, by brothers and simple solders. I am always in awe about the extent of the research she does for her books and the time she takes to read, talk to people, ask questions and go into the depth of archives, in Romania in this case. All this to tell the story of a 17 year old Romanian in late 1989, the year of a Revolution which brought answers but also many questions. Historical fiction like this reminds us that “… history is nuanced, complicated, and doesn’t easily fit into defined categories” in the author’s own words.
“The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is the deadliest disaster in maritime history, with losses dwarfing the death tolls of the famous ships Titanic and Lusitania. Yet remarkably, most people have never heard of it”, Sepetys tells us why she wrote “Salt to the Sea” in the Author’s Note. The effort and extent of the research she went through, together with an impressive number of people, is truly admirable.
“Salt to the Sea” is a story of refuge to the west during the WWII. It dispels the myth that people in the West had it easy. Once again, as in “Between shades of gray”, Sepetys chooses to tell the story through the eyes of children and youth, who caused none of the atrocities, yet endured it all: “Abandoned or separated from their families, they were forced to battle the beast of war on their own, left with an inheritance of heartache and responsibility for events they had no role in causing.” Books like these acknowledge them in ways no history book does it. And this is why Sepetys deserves all my respect for her work.
Yet another great piece by Ruta Sepetys. “Out of the Easy” takes us into the world of a daughter of a prostitute in New Orleans of 1950s.
A mysterious death, the life in a brothel, a strong madam character, blackmail and mobsters, friendship and romance, dreams and aspirations, authenticity of the New Orleans atmosphere and the warmth of human relations all come together for a truly gripping reading.
“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth?” in this world. A watch of a grand father for the life of a young boy?
This is not an easy reading, as it permeates with human suffering beyond understanding. The plot unfolds in soviet Lithuania of 1941 and takes us on the forced journey of a Lithuanian family to Altai and, then next to the arctic circle. The unbelievable hurdles they go through and their stamina are humbling.
I lived in the soviet Union in the years of its glory and we knew nothing about the price people paid to build the infrastructure and resources we benefited from. It took years for the veil over repressions, forced labour, mass deportation to come down after the fall of the Berlin wall.
I am grateful to authors like Sepetys who do the research, talk to people who lived through it all and then put it on paper for us to read, even as historical fiction.
Ruta Sepetys knows how to write a story. It was my first book by her. It was truly gripping, even for my ever busy brain. This novel is definitely one of my top 5 favorite fiction works.
An estimated 300,000 children were stolen from their birth parents and sold into adoption during and after the Franco regime in Spain. Sepetys made us see the story through the eyes of these children and their mothers. And she did that with a dignifying and respectful writing style. Some sceneries bring tears to eyes, some can make you laugh. I find it truly admirable that she manages to stay both proud and humble in her writing. I am looking forward to read more by her.