Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Pat Conroy and South of Broad

I don’t know where to start, telling you how much I like this book. I couldn’t wait for reading time to read it. It never flagged, every page kept me glued. I want you to read it, I want to be able to talk about it with you, but there is so much in this book that I don’t want to spoil it for you.

There are huge themes. There are some very bad people. There are some very good people. Sometimes the very good people can do very bad things, and sometimes the bad people can have some redeeming moments.

We meet the main character as he is about to begin his senior year in college. On the day we meet him, his life changes. Several new people come into his life. Two orphans. A beautiful sister and equally beautiful brother. A black football coach and his son. Three rich kids kicked out of the best private school in town for doing dope.

There are two ‘characters’ who are not people. One is the city of Charleston, SC, and there are entire paragraphs in this book which will make you fall in love, through Pat Conroy’s eyes, with this complicated, beautiful city. Another is Hurricane Hugo, which is as destructive as Charleston is beautiful.

South of Broad covers a time of tumult and change, and you see it through the eyes of of Conroy’s endearing characters. Times changes, society changes and change comes hard for those who stand to lose the most. Conroy deals with segregation, integration, child abuse, suicide, gay sex, economic discrimination, and psychiatric illness, a psycopathic criminal, who happens to be the father of two of this friends, and a hurricane.

For me, what was most engrossing was the complicated question of who is righteous? It’s what I want to talk about with you. Who is most like Jesus? (LOL, give examples) Which characters would you expect think themselves closest to God? Do you think they are? (Be prepared to defend your opinion.) What is a good parent? In this book, who do you think was the best parent?

If you decide to buy this book, please buy a copy with the Reader’s Guide in the back – an interview with Pat Conroy and questions that help you think about the book. I’d like to share with you a segment of the interview which I found so brightly illuminating:

. . . . I found the Parisians rarified, vigilant, hypercritical and fabulous. They had made themselves worthy of the great city they lived in. They oozed style and they ate like kings. . . . The Parisians seem special to both the world and themselves. Then it hit me: My God, they are like Charlestonians.

As I see it, you can take out Charlestonians and substitute Kuwaitis. Or New Yorkers. Or Romans. In fact, just about every society I have visited have their elite, who consider themselves rarified and special, and fight to keep themselves so.

So not only is the book dealing with spiritual righteousness, but also with themes of entitlement and deprivation, bullies and the bullied, parenting, self-fulfillment, and the very real and over-arching theme of friendship and the power of a close circle of friends.

I don’t want to tell you too much. I loved this book. I’m still thinking about it. I hope you’ll read it and think about it, too, and then come back and tell me what you’re thinking. :-)

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September 10, 2010 - Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Books, Community, Cultural, Friends & Friendship, Hurricanes, Interconnected, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Relationships, Social Issues

5 Comments »

  1. ordered!

    Comment by Mrm | September 10, 2010 | Reply

  2. I’ve been meaning to get around to reading some of Conroy’s stuff. This one in particular looks yummy because I love Charleston.

    Comment by Suwannee Refugee | September 10, 2010 | Reply

  3. Mrm – Wooo HOOOO! You and Chirp come visit me and we will talk books for a WEEK!

    Suwanee – Read ALL of Conroy’s stuff. Start with Conrack, which is where I started. He is a gifted author, his prose is rich and eloquent and his grasp of human interactions and emotions is memorable and moving.

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 10, 2010 | Reply

  4. I listened to this one on my ipod. The narrator had a wonderful Charleston accent (Remember, Charleston is in my roots). I loved this book. I love the way Pat Conroy writes. His stuff always has a bit of autobiography to it. I was happy to see this one more uplifting in many ways than some of his past books. I think they are therapy for him as he works out his personal demons.

    Comment by momcat | September 11, 2010 | Reply

  5. I agree with you, MomCat, and one of the reasons I like his books so much is that you often find a therapist involved. Sometimes we all need a little help. His characters are so vulnerable, and while they don’t always do the right thing, they are trying hard, and they usually make right in the end. Part of the joy of reading Conroy, I think, is the process. . . . :-) I imagine listening to it on an iPod would be a great way to ‘read’ the book. :-)

    Comment by intlxpatr | September 12, 2010 | Reply


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