Friday, April 16, 2021

Audio Book Review: Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan

Pages: 432
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: March 9, 2021
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "It was called "The Titanic of the South." The luxury steamship sank in 1838 with Savannah's elite on board; through time, their fates were forgotten--until the wreck was found, and now their story is finally being told in this breathtaking novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis.  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.


Everly Winthrop is a historian living in the beautiful city of Savannah, Georgia.  She should be happy, but she has a lot of guilt surrounding her best friend's untimely death and this has impacted her life greatly the past few years.  However, things are starting to look up for Everly when she is offered the amazing opportunity to guest-curate a museum collection of artifacts from the steamboat Pulaski, which was just found at the bottom of the ocean. This is a dream come true for Everly and she dives right in learning more about the passengers aboard the Pulaski on that fateful night in 1838 when the boiler exploded and caused the ship to sink.  Flashback to 1838 and readers switch points of view to Augusta Longstreet, one of the passengers aboard the Pulaski. She is heading with her brother's family to a vacation home up north to escape the southern heat.  Also aboard is Lily Forsyth, Augusta's niece, who is trapped in a difficult marriage, but must focus on raising her daughter.  Once the explosion takes place, Savannah's finest citizens now struggle to survive and are faced with unimaginable choices that will haunt survivors for years to come.  Meanwhile in present day, Everly finds out what truly happened aboard the Pulaski, who survived, and she especially highlights the strength and bravery many women possessed in the face of tragedy.  Patti Callahan's Surviving Savannah is one of my favorite historical novels of the year.

I immediately liked Everly once I "met" her in Surviving Savannah.  She is smart, is a history professor, she appreciates her family, and is a complex person.  Everly has endured tragedy and can't seem to completely get over the death of her best friend.  She feels guilt surrounding it and even plays the game of "what if" as she feels partly responsible for her death. This spills over into every aspect of her life including her opportunity to guest curate at the museum as there are reminders of her best friend everywhere.  Nonetheless, Everly throws herself into the exhibit, the history of the Pulaski, and the lives of the people on board.  I liked how Callahan had Everly find out information about the survivors just as the other timeline of the novel was telling us what was happening on board in 1838. It was a great way to tell the story and I especially appreciated how it unfolded. While Everly is studying the Pulaski tragedy, she is also making connections to her own life and in turn begging readers to ponder how tragedy impacts a person's life. Does a person come out of it a better person? What if you had a second chance at life?

The other story line of Surviving Savannah takes readers back to the Pulaski and what it was like for Augusta and Lily. Some scenes here broke my heart and it reminded me a bit of the Titanic.  In fact, the Pulaski is called the Titanic of the South, so the similarities are definitely there.  Entire families were wiped out by this tragedy and it was devastating.  I loved how Callahan used this story to showcase the bravery of women during times like this and their strength to survive.  Both August and Lily had to make upsetting decisions, but they had to do what they had to do in order to survive as there were only four lifeboats on the ship and half didn't work! The stories of survival broke my heart as this tragedy could have been avoided, but there's no denying the courage that these women possessed.

Callahan brings to life Savannah so well in Surviving Savannah.  I haven't visited Savannah in a few years, but after reading the novel, I felt like I was back in the historic city filled with its cobblestoned squares, the bustling waterfront, the blooming flowers, the Spanish moss, and the gorgeous architecture. It's such a charming and memorable city; Callahan does it justice.  

While I had a review copy of Surviving Savannah, I also listened to the audio version from time to time and the narrators were outstanding. I absolutely loved the Southern accents and how each narrator brought the characters to life.  I thought this was one of the best audio books I've listened to all year. 

If you love stories of survival filled with historical details, look no further. Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan is one of my favorite novels of the year and one that I won't easily forget. 

Are you a fan of Patti Callahan's novels? Have you read this one?  Let me know in the comments below.



  1. I haven't actually read a novel by this author. Seems like a great one for history buffs alike.

    1. I really enjoyed it and want to check out her other novels! Definitely for history buffs! Thanks for visiting, Joy!

  2. This sounds outstanding - I can't wait to read it!

  3. I love historical fiction, especially when it can teach me about events I didn't know about! And the Savannah setting is one I'm really looking forward to.

    1. Then you will love this one, Angela! I hope you get to read it soon. Thanks for visiting!


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