On a trip to Savannah, I found a bronze statue by the river. I asked a shop clerk about The Waving Girl and he told me a story of desperate love, of loss and redemption. I spent three days in the archives and over three years researching, reading and rewriting this story based on Florence Martus and her brother George, a lighthouse keeper.
Linda Sands’s We’re Not Waving, We’re Drowning, is a haunting, multi-generational commercial southern women’s novel set in Savannah between 1894 and the present. It’s not a mystery, even though a man disappears. And it’s not a romance, even though the three protagonists—each living in a different era—do fall in love. Rather it’s a big, meaty meal of a novel about women searching for family and discovering strength and loss and identity in a changing world and at particularly transitional times of their lives. It’s The Hours in Savannah .
And the symbol of this novel is the Statue of the Waving Girl, which stands to this day by the river. It is a representation of Flora Martus—one of Sands’s heroines—who actually lived in Savannah in the first half of the 20th century. The daughter of the lighthouse keeper, Flora spent much of her life as a recluse on Cockspur Island, reachable from Savannah by boat, largely alone with her brother, George. But she was known by everyone who approached Savannah by water, since she greeted every vessel with a wave of her handkerchief. Flora became the mascot of the city, but that lonely woman waving to the ships was hiding many secrets. Flora’s story in many ways is the core of this novel, as the other protagonists—the modern Philadelphian Maggie, looking for her husband who disappeared off the coast of Savannah on a boat carrying his own secrets; and the turn-of-the-20th-century Bobbie, who makes her own luck and choices—either directly or indirectly come into contact with her.