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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Forgotten American Maritime Disaster Brought to Vivid, Moving Life in New Historical Novel

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As a treat for their employees—many of whom were immigrants with little money for frivolities—Chicago's Western Electric Company planned an elaborate lake excursion to take place on July 24, 1915. Four passenger steamers were chartered to carry people down the Chicago River from Cicero, Illinois, to Michigan City, Indiana, where the company would provide an afternoon of food and fun. Invitees were bubbling over with excitement about the prospect of enjoying a day off picknicking with their families. The festival-like atmosphere soon turned to horror, however, when the overpacked S.S. Eastland began listing to port. In less than 15 minutes, the vessel rolled, trapping hundreds of people inside the doomed ship. Although the boat was still attached to the dock, resting in shallow water, and was equipped with plenty of lifeboats, 848 passengers and crew members died in the disaster.

Drawn by the Current, the final novel in Jocelyn Green's Windy City Saga trilogy, revolves around this forgotten tragedy. Our (fictional) heroine is Olive Pierce, a 29-year-old insurance agent, who is excited when she unexpectedly receives two tickets to attend the outing. She and her best friend, Claire Sterling, board the S.S. Eastland looking forward to a lovely day. When the boat rolls, chaos ensues, and it's only belatedly that Olive realizes Claire is not among the survivors. To assuage the grief and horror resulting from her experience on the Eastland, the insurance agent throws herself into her work, battling red tape to help those affected by the disaster. When she encounters resistance to her efforts, Olive enlists the help of a handsome newspaper photographer. As the two work together, secrets are revealed that could put everything Olive's working for at risk. Can she find justice for those who deserve it most? Will she ever be able to put her own nightmares behind her?

I've enjoyed all the books in the Windy City Saga, but Drawn By the Current is my favorite. Why? For starters, the story revolves around a historical event I had never heard of, which made the story extra interesting for me. Green brings all the emotions that surrounded the S.S. Eastland disaster to vivid life, capturing the excitement of the boarding passengers as well as the horror, fear, and sorrow that soon followed. It's easy to FEEL it all thanks to Green's skilled storytelling. Then there are the warm, sympathetic characters. Olive, especially, is an admirable heroine. She's compassionate, determined, selfless, and ambitious. Rooting for her and her friends is a no-brainer. Plot-wise, Drawn By the Current offers a compelling story that offers a little bit of everything—mystery, romance, action, and suspense. It kept me thoroughly engrossed throughout. Also, although this is a Christian novel, it never gets preachy or heavy-handed. The book deals with several tough issues, but it remains hopeful and uplifting throughout. All of these elements combined beautifully for me, making Drawn By the Current a gripping, moving read. Bonus: it's clean, faith-promoting, and well-written. What more could I want? 

(Readalikes: Reminds me a lot of Surviving Savannah by Patti Callahan as well as the previous Windy City Saga books, Veiled in Smoke and Shadows of the White City)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Drawn By the Current from the generous folks at Bethany House via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

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