Tuesday, April 13, 2010

South of Broad

by Pat Conroy

I said a million times how much I enjoy Conroy's books. This one was no exception. But here's the weird thing: knowing I am way behind on book posts and having read this one almost three books ago, I'm having a bit of trouble conjuring up the feelings I had when I finished it.  I have to go back in the vault because I know I had some pretty strong feelings about it.

The reviews haven't been great for South of Broad. I know I can easily put several other of Conroy's books in front this one. But even if a certain title isn't your favorite, his writing is still so poetic and graceful that you can easily be absorbed into the plot and worry about whether it was "good" later. For me, I was instantly drawn in. The characters were introduced slowly and expertly, so although there was such a variety, I had a clear mental picture of each individual. From the beginning the story was interesting: A senior in high school, Leo King, has recently left a mental hospital due to the suicide of his 10-year old brother and must make penance for the acts he committed and rebuild his life. His friends come from every imaginable walk of life, yet they all seem to work together. Leo also discovers that his mother was once a nun, but left the convent to marry his father. The friendships develop, despite their differences, in quite a believable way, and then we flash forward 20 years to find that even though distance may separate the group, they are still the closest of friends. I personally loved the way that longevity was portrayed. But at about three-quarters of the way through, I watched the book nearly fall apart.

All of a sudden the plot twisted into a bit of a thriller. Really not a strong genre for this author. Luckily, this portion seemed to wrap up rather quickly. Then I was beginning to think that maybe we would never really find out the reason for Leo's brother's suicide. I would have been fine with that because I don't always need a tidy ending. Except, it was bugging me, for obvious reasons. The boy was only 10 when he slit his wrists. Once the reason is revealed, I felt that the ending became extremely rushed and messy. The reason itself could have been the main plot of the whole book. I felt as though there were too many things trying to happen in 500+ pages. As much as I was devouring the book in the beginning, once I closed it I was honesty disappointed. This hasn't turned me away from Pat Conroy altogether though; he's still a brilliant writer. I think he just missed the mark on this one, if even just by a hair. Oddly enough, I would still recommend South of Broad if for nothing but the true friendship of an eclectic group of people.

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