Updated: Feb 21
For Do Savannah Feb 17, 2021
Photo Credit: Bud Johnson Photography
A couple of pages into "Surviving Savannah," an upcoming book by New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan, the grandfather of the narrator, Papa, sets the tone for what is the essence of storytelling at its most grassroots form: the bedtime story.
“He began reciting the words we’d almost memorized, ‘you see, before she took all of those lives, she was a beauty, elegance her specialty.’'
"Surviving Savannah" tells the story of the Pulaski, a steamship that is better known as the “Titanic of the South” because of its having sunken off the coast of North Carolina en route to Savannah in 1838. Callahan, a master storyteller, and author of "Becoming Mrs. Lewis," among other titles, has a love for Savannah and the maritime communities along the coast and that shines through in this book, which is scheduled for a Mar. 9 release.
Callahan would normally be touring the city’s many bookstores, signing copies of the initial hardcover edition and talking to readers about her many inspirations for her work, but this year nothing can be considered normal, particularly how the publishing industry has functioned.
There will be a virtual event on the day of the release where Callahan will be in town at the Ships of the Sea Museum to speak about "Surviving Savannah."
“Sadly it will be on camera (instead of in-person) but it will be the first time the artifacts from the Pulaski are going to be displayed to the general public,” Callahan said.
Hosted by E. Shaver, Booksellers, the event will allow Callahan, who lives in Birmingham but also has a home in Bluffton, South Carolina, an opportunity to return to one of the museums where her extensive research for the book took place. She also spent time at Telfair Museum and Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters.
Lambert knows how important live events are to both selling books and establishing relationships but she’s most interested in telling the story of the Pulaski through the Winthrop family, particularly Dr. Everly Winthrop, the book’s heroine. In the book Dr. Winthrop teaches at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), a school close to Callahan’s heart as her daughter is a graduate. She loves Savannah and was always interested in finding a way to write about it.
“I have a profound respect for Savannah’s complicated history,” she said. "The city has some astounding museums, and that’s where the artifacts are. I couldn’t have written this book without these museums.”
The story of the Pulaski was something Callahan knew about in passing until a good friend, Boo Harrell, a marina worker in Bluffton, mentioned one day. There’s a monument to the sunken ship at the local marina that she has passed on walks too many times to count. Harrell mentioned the Pulaski another day and another day before Callahan decided to do some preliminary research of her own.
Three weeks into the research she stumbled upon a headline “Pulaski Found” and thought “I knew I had to do this,” she said.
Asked what she hopes the people of Savannah will take away from the book Callahan said, “I hope they find something that resonates in their own life. I hope they look a little closer at the complicated history of their city. I like telling the parts of the story we don’t know.
“I want people to show up for the museum, for E. Shaver, Booksellers, these are part of Savannah’s treasures.”
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