I received a gifted galley of SURVIVING SAVANNAH by Patti Callahan for an honest review. Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review!
Publication Date: 3/9/2021
Rating: 4 / 5
SURVIVING SAVANNAH is historical fiction based on the real life sinking of the luxury steamship Pulaski in 1838. The submerged wreck was only recently found with divers bringing up the relics. This fictional account follows Everly in the present day as she is brought in by a Savannah museum to pull together the story of the Pulaski into a major exhibit. She has always been intrigued by the ship’s story and the mysteries left by spotty records. Though trying to overcome tragedies in her own life, she is easily wrapped up in the stories of those who experienced the trauma of the ship’s sinking.
The novel also follows two points of view in 1838. Lilly is a young wife and mother traveling with her abusive husband, her baby and her Black nursemaid. Lilly’s aunt Augusta is the second POV on board the Pulaski. They are traveling with their family of 12 and their story is one of the key areas of Everly’s research in the present as well.
I really enjoyed this one and knowing that it was based on actual events made it even more powerful to read. The author did an amazing job of putting the sinking of the ship in the reader’s mind. The ship was amazingly unprepared for a problem at sea, lacking the life boats and equipment that could have saved so many lives. You know going into this that many lives were lost and families were broken apart along with the ship, but the images the author gives us really drive the heartbreak home.
I really enjoyed the research portions of the present day narrative as well. It was interesting (and disturbing) to hear about the stumbling blocks in the research process because women weren’t named on the list of those on board apart from being their husband’s wife. Even worse, Black individuals on board were counted an entirely separate category after the count of people and children.
This was a fascinating read about an event I knew nothing about going in and the author’s notes at the end about her research and how the real people on the ship tied into her narrative were fascinating. This is a book about survival and surviving that survival and one I’d recommend! Surviving Savannah is out today!