SAVANNAH’S marshes inspire awe and create magic.
The magic of the marsh is on full display in “Forever Across the Marsh,” Jeff Pearson’s first published book. This Saturday, Pearson hosts a signing and talk at E. Shaver to thank his readers.
Pearson started something like “Forever Across the Marsh” around ten years ago when he was deployed in Iraq. He wrote short stories to entertain his fellow Marines and kept them in stitches.
“I was writing in a war zone, and somehow people found a way to laugh,” he remembers.
Now, humor is a major part of “Forever Across the Marsh,” but that’s just one factor.
“I decided to try to create what I consider a different kind of book. In fact, we have yet to find another book like it,” says Pearson. “It’s not your typical mystery, murder, romance. We’ve asked readers, ‘Someone tell us what this is like!’ When we tried to pick a genre, we couldn’t find one that fit this book. The best thing we can come up with is a tragicomedy.”
Truly, the book is unique in that it deftly weaves seemingly separate stories together into one story of Melvin Scott, a newcomer to Savannah that quickly learns about Lowcountry life. Upon arriving from Rhode Island, Scott finds out he’s allergic to no-see-ums. Another story follows him getting in a boat but knowing nothing about boats.
“It’s not a joke, but it’s designed to make you laugh, and I think it captures a local humor that people from Savannah or visiting Savannah will really get a kick out of,” says Pearson. “One reader called it a roller coaster of adventures, and that’s probably a good way to describe it. One moment you’re laughing, and the next, who’s cutting the onions?”
The book also rolls in some deeper meanings.
“There are a lot of hidden messages. There’s a tension between developing the marsh and not developing the marsh,” says Pearson. “There’s a love for it because it’s not developed. You can go out there, and as far as you can see, there’s marsh. There’s a love for it, but if everyone had this love for it, they’d be on the marsh. It’s been preserved since the beginning of the world; how do we keep it that way? How do we keep it undiscovered so it doesn’t lose its magic or beauty?”
A truly magic moment on the marsh happened this past June, when Pearson and his family were at a restaurant that inspired a location for a treasure hunt in the book. His kids were playing around and found a bottle under the roots of a tree.
“They came running over—‘Dad, we found a treasure map!’” recalls Pearson. “My wife was like, ‘No, kids, that’s a message in a bottle.’ They were like, ‘What’s that?’”
Pearson chalked it up to a cool coincidence and posted it on Facebook. After some social media digging, one of the book’s readers found Chad, who wrote the message in the bottle over 30 years ago.
“It took me a while to connect that this is the restaurant in the book, and it’s about a treasure hunt and all the connections,” he says. “It was almost eerie.”
Saturday’s event is dedicated to and designated for the readers of “Forever Across the Marsh.”
“It’s basically to thank our readers,” says Pearson. “I wanted to do something where I could be there and sign their book, talk to them, get their feedback on what they liked and didn’t like. There’s been a range of responses, and I’m going to write another one that picks up where this one ends, and I want to hear what was important.”
Also, Pearson notes with a laugh, it’s a bye week for Georgia football, so his readers will be able to make it to the event without ditching the Dawgs.
“The book is largely undiscovered in the sense that it’s obviously not a major motion picture,” says Pearson, “but the people who have read it have just had these powerful responses.”