Book Review: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Berkley Publishing Group

Historical Fiction

Pub Date 09 Mar 2021

About the book:

When Savannah history professor Everly Winthrop is asked to guest-curate a new museum collection focusing on artifacts recovered from the steamship Pulaski, she’s shocked. The ship sank after a boiler explosion in 1838, and the wreckage was just discovered, 180 years later. Everly can’t resist the opportunity to try to solve some of the mysteries and myths surrounding the devastating night of its sinking.

Everly’s research leads her to the astounding history of a family of eleven who boarded the Pulaski together, and the extraordinary stories of two women from this family: a known survivor, Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth, who was never found, along with her child. These aristocratic women were part of Savannah’s society, but when the ship exploded, each was faced with difficult and heartbreaking decisions. This is a moving and powerful exploration of what women will do to endure in the face of tragedy, the role fate plays, and the myriad ways we survive the surviving.

My thoughts:

The Steamship Pulaski disaster is a true historic story. In 1838, there was an explosion on board at eleven pm at night and two-thirds of the lives were lost. The ship was about 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina and the ship sank within 45 minutes after the explosion. Can you image the utter chaos and the fight for survival? The utter fear of the women, men and children experienced was beyond horrific. As the story goes, through time, the fate of the lives lost were forgotten.

The historical story of Augusta Longstreet, and her niece, Lilly Forsyth was fascinating to follow. The plight that was handed to them and having to deal with it in life altering ways was extraordinary and powerful to read about. This story truly explores how life can change in an instance and the outcome is uncertain but one must never give up hope. Lily is a person I would love to read more about. Not only that but what the other families were going through during those fateful hours on the Pulaski and in the ocean.

Divers reported that they are believed to have found the wreckage of Pulaski from recovered items they salvaged from the wreck. Savannah professor Everly Winthrop was asked to study the artifacts and of that fateful period leading up to the disaster and afterwards. While she is working on the project, she was dealing with her own tragedy affecting her life in more ways than one.

This story is told in a dual time-line and I enjoyed many of the history elements throughout the story but felt at times the writing of the modern part was contrived. Also, Everly’s personal tragedy -where she eventually found closure- was too drawn out and I became irritated. I felt that part did not carry the overall modern day story well and it lacked structure and seemed forced, for a lack of better word. I found it hard to empathizes with her, but don’t misunderstand me, I’m fully aware that people grieve in different ways.

I did enjoy reading about Everly’s surroundings in Savannah because the city is known to me and her search for the artifacts, and finding out more about the families on the ship was intriguing.

I do love dual story-lines but I found myself thinking that I would have just preferred reading the historic aspects of the story without the modern part. Both need to be equally strong and it wasn’t which makes it difficult to follow the flow of the story with ease.

Despite a few of my misgivings, it is a good story and I’m confident that many readers will enjoy learning about the Pulaski through Surviving Savannah.

Stephanie Hopkins

I obtained a copy from the Publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

  1. It seems the dual-timeline plot is sometimes overdone. I have read a few where the present day time could have been omitted and it would have been a better Book. Glad this is still enjoyable. Nice review.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Carla! Overall it was enjoyable. I would like to read more about the people in the historical setting. It wasn’t fully developed becuase of the modern day part.
      Indeed! I love a good dual time- line story but I don’t think it works for some… like this one.
      It does seem it is getting overplayed lately.

      Liked by 2 people

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