Surviving Savannah [Book Review]

March 5, 2021

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan (cover) Image: a young woman from the 1800s stands at a railing with her back to the camera overlooking a harbor

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Southern Fiction, Shipwreck

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Thank you #NetGalley @BerkleyPub #BerkleyWritesStrongWomen #BerkleyBuddyReads for a complimentary e arc of #SurvivingSavannah upon my request. Pub Date: 3/9/2021 All opinions are my own.

In 1838, a luxury steamship called the Pulaski (Titanic of the South) on route from Savannah to Baltimore sank off the coast of North Carolina as a result of a boiler explosion. One hundred eighty years later the remains are found and Everly Winthrop, a history professor, is given the task of curating the museum collection of artifacts. This compelling story of “surviving the surviving” is told in dual timelines from multiple perspectives. In 1838, the story follows Lily and Augusta (and their large family) as they board the ship and struggle to survive the blast. In the present day, Everly is especially fascinated by this family of eleven that was on board. As she pieces together the story of the survivors, Everly is also suffering from PTSD from her own heartbreaking story of loss and figuring out how she will “survive the surviving.”

a black and white drawing of the doomed Pulaski

Image Source: Wikipedia

My Thoughts:

Survive the surviving” …. probably most of us can relate to dealing with the physical and/or psychological aftermath of a tragic event.

Two timelines: Often in dual timeline stories, one timeline is the more powerful and engrossing. Even though there’s a little mystery to solve between the two timelines, I felt that the timeline of 1838 was the most compelling due to the nature of the first person survival experience. We are onboard ship when the explosion occurs and are thrown into survival mode along with the characters. The desperation, heroics, sacrifice, difficult decisions, and brutal conditions are all described in vivid detail. Meanwhile in the present timeline, the wreck has been found, and Everly attempts to unravel the secrets of the past while curating the museum exhibit. Her survival from a past event is not told with the same immediacy and is more of a psychological surviving. The action in the past timeline was page-turning and I couldn’t wait to get back to it!

Themes: The strong and thoughtful theme of “surviving the surviving” is central to the story and is poignantly explored in the two timelines. Other themes include friendship, the treatment of enslaved people, grief, second chances, spousal abuse, family, sacrifice, romance, and life and death choices.

Characters: Surviving Savannah includes likable and strong female characters in both timelines. I would have liked to have had more time with Lily, her black nursemaid, and Augusta in the past timeline. Some things about Everly in the present timeline were frustrating (an example is one reckless and poor decision she made). Both timelines include a bit of romance (but this is not romantic histfic). Don’t miss the author’s notes about her extensive research into the history and the real people.

Page-turning: My favorite reads are page turners! I love to become completely carried away by the plot and captivated by characters and then suffer a book hangover when it’s finished. In my opinion, the historical timeline is the most compelling of the two, and I would’ve been satisfied if the story had been built around that one timeline.

Recommended: I love to learn about an event that I’ve never known about before! I’m enthusiastically recommending Surviving Savannah for fans of historical fiction (especially non WWII), for readers who are looking for an engrossing and page-turning story with strong female leads, for those who might like an atmospheric story set in the South, and for book clubs. My Instagram “buddy read” found a lot to discuss here!

Content Consideration/Trigger Warnings: spousal abuse and rape, death of some passengers, death of a close friend, grief

Also by Callahan: Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

My Rating:  4.5 Stars (rounded up to 5 because of the compelling historical timeline)

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Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan (cover) Image: a woman stands against a rail with her back to the camera overlooking a harbor

Surviving Savannah Information Here Pub Date: 3/9/2021

Meet the Author, Patti Callahan

Author Patti CallahanPatti Callahan is a New York Times bestselling author and is the recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writer of the Year. She is a frequent speaker at luncheons, book clubs, and women’s groups.



Is Surviving Savannah on your TBR?

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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.



    • It’s a great story and I would have gladly spent the entire story in the past getting to know those characters better!

  1. […] Recommending is one of my favorite activities and I always have numerous recommendations ready for those recommendable moments. The last nonfiction I recommended was Open by Andre Agassi and the last fiction (histfic) I recommended was Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan. […]

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