Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
JUST RIP MY HEART OUT WHY DON’T YOU???
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.
I initially picked this up because it involved the Wilhelm Gustloff which is one of the worst maritime disasters in history (9,000 died), yet very few people are actually aware that it happened. Time has a worthwhile article on this novel and the ship if you are interested in learning more.
It took me a bit to feel anchored to the characters as there are four narrators and I wasn’t sure which one was which for a while. I typically struggle with these types of narrative choices, but I thought it all came together exceptionally well. I was quite stressed during the latter half of the book because I knew what was coming, but it unfolded in an unhurried way. I had a hard time putting the novel down and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys WWII historical fiction.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I really enjoyed this story and the characters. Event though it was almost 600 pages, I wouldn’t have been sad for 600 more. There are a lot of issues she touched on and some of them did not get explored as much as I would have liked, but I still really enjoyed it. At times it was a kind of all over the place and rambling, but I found it thoughtful and lovely. I pretty much always enjoy an immigration story and reading about people navigating a new land.
As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. Ifemelu–beautiful, self-assured–departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze–the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor–had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.
Fifteen years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion–for their homeland and for each other–they will face the toughest decisions of their lives. Fearless, gripping, spanning three continents and numerous lives, Americanah is a richly told story of love and expectation set in today’s globalized world.
Cockroaches by Jo Nesbø
I don’t know if it was because so many other things were going on in the real world at the time, but I never really got into the story and it was a labor to finish it. I blame the Nazis.
When the Norwegian ambassador to Thailand is found dead in a Bangkok brothel, Inspector Harry Hole is dispatched from Oslo to help hush up the case.
But once he arrives Harry discovers that this case is about much more than one random murder. There is something else, something more pervasive, scrabbling around behind the scenes. Or, put another way, for every cockroach you see in your hotel room, there are hundreds behind the walls. Surrounded by round-the-clock traffic noise, Harry wanders the streets of Bangkok lined with go-go bars, temples, opium dens, and tourist traps, trying to piece together the story of the ambassador’s death even though no one asked him to, and no one wants him to—not even Harry himself.