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So Close to Home: A True Story of an American Family's Fight for Survival During WWII

Co-author Alison O’Leary will share the true story of men and women pitted against the sea during World War II—and an unforgettable portrait of the determination of the human spirit.

On May 19, 1942, a U-boat in the Gulf of Mexico stalked its prey fifty miles from New Orleans. Captained by twenty nine-year-old Iron Cross and King's Crossrecipient Erich Wurdemann, the submarine set its sights on the freighter Heredia with sixty-two souls on board.

Most aboard were merchant seamen, but there were also a handful of civilians, including the Downs family: Ray and Ina, and their two children, eight-year-old Sonny and eleven-year-old Lucille. Fast asleep in their berths, the Downs family had no idea that two torpedoes were heading their way. When the ship exploded, chaos ensued—and each family member had to find their own path to survival.

An inspiring historical narrative, So Close to Home tells the story of the Downs family as they struggle against sharks, hypothermia, drowning, and dehydration in their effort to survive the aftermath of this deadly attack off the American coast.

Alison O'Leary is a former reporter for the Boston Globe, a magazine editor, and a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in publications across the country.

Michael J. Tougias is the author of more than ten books, including Overboard!, The Finest Hours (with Casey Sherman), Fatal Forecast, and Ten Hours until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy aboard the Can Do.

Earlier Event: February 21
Taste Testers Cookbook Club
Later Event: February 23
Movie Matinee