I read Christopher Berinato’s "Secret Savannah: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure" out and about in squares, bars, and coffee shops. As tourists passed, I couldn’t help feeling a little smug about living in this gorgeous historic city of stories, getting to experience its magic every day.
In "Secret Savannah," local author Christopher Berinato mixes well-known yarns like that of the Waving Girl statue, with true “deep cuts” of Savannah history such as graves on a Savannah/Hilton Head International airport runway. It’s a book that will teach both tourists and locals a thing or 12 about the most charming city in the South. While I don’t claim to be an expert in all things Savannah, I’ve lived here for almost seven years and loved the city from afar ever since I was a little girl.Get Savannah arts and culture news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and Dine newsletters
And still, the stories in this collection made me say, “Oh, THAT’S what that thing is?” (the natural gas storage tank painted like a globe) Or “I never knew that.” (Jekyll Island’s role in the first transatlantic phone call in 1915) Some chapters, like the one about the 20-foot sloth skeleton on Skidaway, made me say, “Well, that’s weird.”
While a lot of the stories are odd, plenty are wonderful in their attempts to shine a spot of truth on legends or one-sided narratives. The chapter titled “The Heartbroken Girl” reveals the anticlimactic facts behind the death of Corinne Elliot Lawton, a young woman rumored to have flung herself into the river. The story of General William T. Sherman reading the “40 acres and a Mule” order in front of the Second African Baptist Church ends with a reminder that the promise was never kept.
What I enjoyed most about this book was the casual intimacy of Berinato’s writing. He is part tour guide and part raconteur. Each chapter reads like a short story, proving that it isn’t just the knowledge of Savannah’s many stories that separate the locals from the tourists, but the familiarity, humor, and reverence with which they are told.
Christopher Berinato is a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Savannah Morning News, and for over a decade has written for other local publications, such as Murmur Magazine, Savannah Magazine, and Connect Savannah. He is also the co-founder and co-host of Seersucker Live. In the evening, you can find Christopher managing the Gallery Espresso cafe, located in the beating heart of Savannah’s Historic District. You can get weird with Berinato and hear more about his book this Friday, Nov. 1 at Book Lady Bingo at The Book Lady Bookstore at 7 p.m.