Sometimes when I don’t think five stars is enough, I add a diamond on this blog so people will know how special it was. This is one of those books.
In 1838, The Steamship Pulaski set sail from Savannah to Baltimore, loaded with wealthy passengers, their extravagant belongings, and also their enslaved people. Lilly Forsyth, her nursemaid, the enslaved Priscilla, and Lilly’s daughter Madeleine board along with Lilly’s cousins, the wealthy and famous Longstreets. Lilly is also accompanied by her arrogant, cruel, and abusive husband, Adam. Dripping with wealth and carrying all the comforts of home, the Pulaski sets sail for a one-night voyage to Baltimore so the rich can escape the Southern heat. A horrific explosion and fire occur during the night, causing the sinking of the ship and great loss of life. Lilly, Priscilla, and Madeleine begin their desperate attempt to survive in more ways than one.
In present day, Everly has suffered a great personal loss after the death of her best friend Mora. She is approached by Oliver, who was engaged to Mora when she died. Oliver is part of a team which has discovered the remains of the Pulaski after more than 180 years and is beginning the recovery.. He asks Everly to curate the artifacts and help arrange an exhibit. Everly has been living a reclusive life since the death of Mora in a horrible hit-and-run accident that Everly survived. She is going through the motions and is obsessed with finding the hit -and-run driver, who is still unidentified. Can she commit to a project such as the Pulaski?
This captivating and exquisitely written story looks at the many different sides of survival. There is survival of a tragedy, such as the sinking of the Pulaski, there is survival of slavery and horrific abuse, and survival of an accident that turned to murder. Then the author looks at different reactions of the survivors. This takes a fascinating turn, as different characters have very different reactions to the same tragedy. Some embrace life, knowing that it is fleeting, some cower in fear, and others blaze with hate and anger. The characters, especially Lilly, Priscilla, and Everly, are well developed and engaging. The story is an intriguing mix of fact and fiction. Patti Callahan takes a real event, the sinking of the Pulaski, and combines it with both real and fictional characters to create a story that is fascinating and hard to put down. I would recommend it for any fans of historical fiction or maritime fiction.
I received a free copy of this book from Berkley Publishing. My review is voluntary.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of sixteen novels and podcast host. She writes as both Patti Callahan and Patti Callahan Henry. She is the recipient of The Christy Award — A 2019 Winner “Book of the Year”; The Harper Lee Distinguished Writer of the Year for 2020 and the Alabama Library Association Book of the Year for 2019. She is the co-host and co-creator of the popular weekly online Friends and Fiction live web show and podcast. A full-time author and mother of three children, she now resides in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina with her husband.