Hamline News

New Nonfiction from MFAC Alum Patricia Sutton


Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster, by Patricia Sutton (MFAC ‘18)
Published by Chicago Review Press
July 2018

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On July 24, 1915, the SS Eastland, filled to capacity with 2,500 passengers and crew, capsized in the Chicago River while still moored to the pier. Happy picnic-goers headed for an employee outing across Lake Michigan suddenly found themselves in a struggle for their lives. Trapped belowdecks, crushed by the crowds attempting to escape the rising waters, or hurled into the river from the upper deck of the ship, roughly one-third of the passengers, mostly women and children, perished that day. The Eastland disaster took more passenger lives than the Titanic and stands today as the greatest loss of life on the Great Lakes.

Capsized! details the events leading up to the fateful day and provides a nail-biting, minute-by-minute account of the ship's capsizing. From the courage of the survivors to the despair of families who lost loved ones, author Patricia Sutton brings to light the stories of ordinary working people enduring the unthinkable. Capsized! is narrative nonfiction, using eyewitness accounts to tell the story of the 844 that died that day.

Capsized! also raises critical-thinking questions for young readers: Why do we know so much about the Titanic's sinking yet so little about the Eastland disaster? What causes a tragedy to be forgotten and left out of society's collective memory? And what lessons from this disaster might we be able to apply today?

Read an excerpt here.




“In a tautly written, vividly detailed, suspenseful narrative, Sutton chronicles the event that stands today as the greatest loss of life on the Great Lakes. From the time of the Eastland’s launch in 1903, design flaws making her susceptible to listing were known though kept quiet by the company that owned it. [...] Sutton raises several provocative questions: Why is so much known about the Titanic’s sinking and yet so little about the Eastland disaster? Why was no one ever held responsible for this catastrophe? Her fast-paced account makes ample use of primary sources, plaiting them into her narrative naturally as dialogue.
A true disaster story rivetingly told.”
–-Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"A badly designed ship, a careless captain, and decks jammed with 2,500 passengers are a recipe for disaster. Patricia Sutton describes the tragic launching of the SS Eastland in a dramatic, riveting narrative filled with the vivid firsthand accounts of those onboard that brings readers along on a harrowing day trip."
—Jim Murphy, author of Newbery Honor titles The Great Fire and An American Plague

“A riveting page-turner sure to grab readers’ attention. Patricia Sutton’s well-researched Capsized! will leave you shocked, saddened, and unable to put it down."
—Kate Hannigan, author of The Detective’s Assistant

"Through meticulous research and vivid prose, Sutton brings to life the little-known story of the Eastland ship disaster. Based on firsthand accounts of passengers, ship workers and bystanders, readers can experience the people and events that led to the sinking of the fastest steamship on the Great Lakes and its tragic aftermath."
—Claire Rudolf Murphy, author of Gold Rush Women and Marching with Aunt Susan



Capsized! Launch Party at Red Balloon Bookshop
When: Saturday, July 7, 5:30-7:30 PM
Where: Red Balloon Bookshop
             891 Grand Avenue South, Saint Paul 55105

Join author Patricia Sutton and other book lovers for a talk, book signing, and celebratory refreshments! Visit Red Balloon for more information.

Visit the Facebook event page here.

For more information about the upcoming Capsized! Great Lakes Book Tour, click here.

Congratulations, Patricia!