Lavinia Onslow, who delights in the freedom of managing her father’s millinery shop in the heart of Savannah, Georgia, has decided she may defy convention and not marry after all. Yet, in the summer of 1838, on board the elegant steamship Pulaski, bound from Savannah to Baltimore, she exchanges glances with an intriguing young man. What can ensue from a mere glance? Quite a lot, as legend has it. That very night, the boiler of the Pulaski explodes and the ship sinks, drowning most of its wealthy passengers. As Lavinia struggles in the water in her heavy dress, calling out for her father and thinking she will surely perish, someone dives in to rescue her, pulling her up next to him on a makeshift raft made of two deck settees. When she composes herself, she recognizes the intriguing man. There they float, alone but together, surrounded by ocean, thirty miles off the coast of North Carolina, desperate for a life-saving miracle.
Is the bond she feels for this stranger more than an instinct for survival?
Inspired by a legend --that may or not be true-- and set in the rich historic milieus of Savannah, New Orleans, and the coast of North Carolina, Between the Sky and the Sea explores how Lavinia Onslow’s desire to live as an independent woman transforms after surviving the wreck of the Pulaski.
Lisa Williams Kline is the author of two novels for adults forthcoming in 2023, Between the Sky and the Sea, and Ladies’ Day, as well as an essay collection entitled The Ruby Mirror and a short story collection entitled Take Me. She lives in Davidson with her veterinarian husband, a cat who can open doors, and a sweet chihuahua who has played Bruiser Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical.
I loved this book. It opened with the real-life tragedy of the steamship Pulaski, which sank in 1838, taking most of its passengers with it — but miraculously, not the novel’s fictional protagonist, 22-year-old Lavinia Onslow, traveling with her father from Savannah to their summer home in New York. Swept into the sea, she is rescued by Daniel Ridge, a young man who has fashioned a raft from items ripped from the ship as it broke apart. They spend four days floating, always close to death, clinging to each other until they are finally rescued. And that’s just the beginning. Once on land, they realize they’ve fallen in love and can’t bear bear to be separated again, something that would be possible only if they were married. Lavinia has not (up till now) wanted to marry, but rather to run her father’s millinery shop as she’s been doing for some years. And Daniel is a railroad man from New Orleans. What do they really have in common? But, vulnerable in the aftermath of the shipwreck, they do marry . . . and face the myriad of problems their decision creates. If you think these can’t be as riveting as the shipwreck was, think again. The author skillfully pits the young couple (who really are in love) against the world that seems to work against them, forcing them to live apart for months at a time, struggle against laws that make women, but not men, ineligible for freedoms and privileges that today seem the smallest of entitlements. As a reader, I found myself holding my breath, wondering how they were ever going to prevail. And rejoicing when they did.Elizabeth Rae
This was a most satisfying read and I couldn’t put it down, swept away by the story of surviving the sinking of the steamship Pulaski, by the relatable characters, by the vibrant descriptions of Savannah and New Orleans, and by the author’s knowledge of the history, customs, and speech of the times. I found myself crying in places, but always cheering for Lavinia Onslow, the main character, and everything she endures as she gracefully navigates the impact of her decisions as well as the confines placed upon her in the 1830s South, a time when women can’t own property and coverture laws are in place. Compelling, page-turning, and ultimately hopeful, Between the Sky and the Sea captured my attention until the very end.
Between the Sky and the Sea is a novel you don’t want to miss! Lisa Williams Kline is an experienced and talented author and researcher! She knows how to spin a tale that captures a reader’s imagination with realistic, historic details from the 1800s. From the downtown streets of old Savannah to the millinery shop owned by Lavinia’s father to the excitement of boarding the steamship Pulaski, to the days when Lavinia and Daniel floated on two deck settees in the ocean to a stagecoach robbery to the sights and sounds on the New Orleans wharf, her story is rich with mood and tension.
This book is a love story created with nuanced characters embedded in a setting so real and multi-layered, I felt as if I had been teleported back in time. Daniel and Lavinia face incredible odds. I learned about the social mores and what it was like to be a woman in the mid 1800s.
I was so taken with this novel that I had to slow down my reading as I reached the final chapters, just so I could savor the ending, which did not disappoint!