This book has been on my radar for months—ever since I was part of the cover reveal I have been counting down the days until this one! I have read a couple of Patti Callahan’s books prior to this one and loved them! But this book sounded like it was going to be one of her best yet!
The cover is absolutely captivating and promises a wonderful historical fiction novel contained within, but as we all know, we can’t judge a book by it’s cover—however tempting it might be. Even with that thought in mind, my expectations were high for this one simply based on the cover.
But if reading Becoming Mrs Lewis taught me anything it’s that Callahan is a superb writer and does a wonderful job with her research. So naturally my expectations were high for this one—gorgeous cover or not. I sat down with this one on a quiet Sunday morning and it simply did not let me go for the next couple of days. I was lost in the story and adored it!
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. (summary from Goodreads).
Years ago I read In the Garden of Good and Evil and I was captivated by the town of Savannah. I never had any desire to travel to the South, but after reading that book it’s been on my bucket list. Now after reading this book, the desire to go there is undeniable. Callahan describes the town of Savannah in such rich color and detail, I couldn’t get enough of it! The settings in this book range from opulent southern society to the river boat survivors. It was such a well told story that was incredibly well researched! I couldn’t put it down and enjoyed every single minute of it!
This book, like many historical fiction novels, flips between a modern narrative and a historical one. I know a lot of readers grow tired of that approach and find it simply over done, but I rarely become bored with it. I grew up in a family that loved history (I also have my master’s in history) and my dream was always to find some artifact or letter of a family secret hidden for years that leads me on an adventure through time. So books like this really speak to my heart. If you are one of those that is bored with the modern/historic timelines then you will likely find this book predictable in some ways but for me, I simply love it and enjoy books like this so much!
I think one of the things in this book that got me the most was all the details about diving/recovery and shipwrecks! When I think of shipwrecks my mind immediately goes to the Titanic and salvaging but this was something entirely different and I think the author 100% capitalize on that sense of new-ness in the story. There were little historic details that I found interesting and intriguing—-so much so, that I went down different rabbit holes Googling all sorts of things about shipwrecks etc. I loved that this one was based on actual events and it was something I had never heard of so instantly this one felt fresh and exciting for me.
This book had a lot to recommend itself to fans of historical fiction, but even if you aren’t a fan of historical fiction I would encourage you to read this one still. It’s beautifully written with rich historical detail as well as a host of well drawn characters. I loved it and once again, Callahan knocked it out of the park with this one! I cannot wait for more historical fiction novels from her!
Book Info and Rating
Format432 pages Kindle Edition
PublishedMarch 9, 2021 by Berkley
Free review copy provided by publisher, Berkley in partnership with Tall Poppy Writers/Bloggers, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: historical fiction