I’m a huge Patti Callahan Henry fan, and SURVIVING SAVANNAH is my new favorite of her novels. Told through a dual time-line, it’s a page-turner that sent me down my own rabbit hole of research. (As a history major, I do love research!) I became obsessed with the true story of the Titanic of the South. Until picking up this book, I’d never heard of the steam ship Pulaski.
The writing is rich, the characters memorable, and the voices, both past and present, weave together organically. The plot opens with present-day historian Everly commenting, “I was born in water;” then moves seamlessly to introduce Lily, Augusta, and other members of Savannah’s high society as they board the Pulaski in 1838. Passengers include Augusta’s brother and Lily’s uncle, Lamar—the wealthy shipbuilder.
The settings come alive, whether on the streets of modern Savannah, or in the wide expanse of ocean as survivors cling to wreckage. Some of them for five days. My heart raced for Lily, her baby, and her baby’s nurse, and for Augusta and Lamar’s children.
Shifting to the contemporary world, I felt Everly’s passion for turning random artifacts from the ocean floor into a curated display that both told a story and honored the dead. While working on the exhibit, Everly is also navigating grief. As someone on that path, I found incredible hope in her journey.
SURVIVING SAVANNAH is a remarkable story that focuses on family, genealogy, and loss. It’s about surviving everything that follows tragedy, and the decisions you make as you learn to embrace the broken pieces of your life. As several characters say, it’s about surviving the surviving.
To quote Everly, “The life we live is the life we choose with every decision of the heart, soul and mind. What do we do with our survival?”