Wednesday, September 1, 2010
'South of Broad'.... A book review.....
'South of Broad'
A book review
'South of Broad,' written by Pat Conroy, extends over two decades and takes place for the most part in the town of Charleston, South Carolina. Conroy describes Charleston as a sea port rich in family history and class division. A place where people were defined by their family name. A town where southern women and gentlemen frequented fancy restaurants and country clubs. A place where people were noted for their charm, their manners, and in some cases for their sense of entitlement.
The town itself is described as having many enduring qualities. A beautiful place with old world charm that Conroy has brought to life with his vivid and colorful descriptions.
In 'South of Broad' the story centers around the character of Leopold Bloom King. His mother Dr. King, is a high school principal, a former nun, and a Joycean who celebrates Blooms Day every year, hence Leo's name. His father is a science teacher who is very mellow and easy to talk to. He manages the home and makes most of the meals.
When Leo is eight years old tragedy strikes. He finds his beloved older brother Steve in the bathtub of the family home with his wrists slit. The suicide makes no sense to anyone as Steve has always been an out going boy with a great personality. The family, who rely strongly on their faith try to go on but Leo is broken. He spends years in therapy and on psychiatric units. Leo had always been an especially lonely boy who didn't make friends very easily and Steve had been his rock, always allowing Leo to tag along.
The story jumps to 1966. Leo is now a teenager. He takes the fall for another boy and ends up on probation for cocaine possession. It's through his community service and paper route that the reader learns about the people in the town. As Leo is coming to the end of his probation he meets a group of high school students who form life long relationships with one another. They are an unlikely group coming from very different backgrounds in very turbulent and changing times.
The story then jumps to the eighty's. One of the friends is in trouble and needs help. The group once again rallies around each other. It is here one learns more about each of the individuals that make up the group. We hear of aspirations, successes, failures, happy and troublesome marriages, wants, longings, and unreciprocated loves.
Within the context of the story, Conroy also touches on several issues such as gay rights and the devastating disease Aids, racism, segregation, and human rights.
If that were not enough, the group is plagued by a psychotic killer and lives through a deadly hurricane. The real shocker though comes near the end of the book when Leo learns the truth about why his brother Steve took his own life.
Special thanks to Random House for giving me the opportunity to read this very interesting book.