Everly Winthrop had grown up hearing about the tragedy of the Pulaski, a steamship that sunk off the coast of North Carolina in 1838 killing most of its passengers. Most were members of Savannah’s most wealthy families. There were few survivors. To serve as a symbol of all who were lost, a statue was erected of Lily Forsyth, a woman believed to have perished. A painting of the ill-fated vessel still hangs in Everly’s childhood home. As a history teacher, Everly is thrilled when asked to curate an exhibit at the local maritime museum as the wreckage of the ship had been found. She seeks to learn more about the people behind the tragedy and the artifacts that have been buried under the sea set Everly on the road to uncovering their stories. This engaging book shifts from present day to 1838 when we find Lily and her family preparing for their journey. Also on board is Lily’s aunt Augusta Longstreet and her brother Lamar and his wife and children. Only hours after leaving port, the ship explodes. The struggle to survive in the cold waters is told with harrowing realism. There were only two working lifeboats and others tried to stay alive by floating on rafts made from parts of the ship.
The stories of those on the Pulaski make for a very interesting story including what happened to the survivors. The despicable reality of slavery is addressed and it is heartbreaking. But the story of Evelyn makes this book especially endearing. It is her story that moved me the most. This is a woman who had experienced her own tragedy and has been simply existing ever since. Working on this project helps her decide whether she too has the will to survive and live her life.
Now known as “The Titanic of the South,” the story of the Pulaski is true and author Patti Callahan did an excellent job using well-researched facts blended with a fictional story inspired by its history.
I had put this book on the back-burner as other books shouted, “Read me!” a little louder. I’m so glad I decided to finally read it. If you have been thinking about reading Surviving Savannah, wait no more. It is a captivating book you’re sure to enjoy, especially if historical fiction is your genre.
Rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: March 9, 2021.
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