Sometimes, I like to slip into something more comfortable.... And return to a favorite author and remind myself of the depth of his work. Pat Conroy is one favorite whom I have returned in recent months, and I have not been disappointed.
Conroy's in-depth journeys into family drama and the unique stamp of the south imprinted on all his novels are engaging, entertaining and often heartbreaking. The Prince of Tides, originally published in 1986, was made into a block-buster movie in 1991. This time around, I listened to the book, all 23 hours, and let the accents and vivid descriptions of the landscapes of the untouched south of the 1950s and 1960s wash over me.
Tom Wingo and his twin sister, Savannah, were born during the height of a hurricane in the mid-1940s; welcomed to their island home by older brother Luke, beautiful mother Lila and volatile father Henry, a shrimp-boat captain. Raised on a combination of southern tradition and seafood, pride and brutality, the Wingo children survive childhood full of nature, exploration and chaos to face their own demons and perceptions of the past.
Tom, who grew up to become a football coach, strives for an ordinary life. Luke, forced from his childhood home by an impeding development project, wages his own war against the injustice of a country who will train him to kill in Vietnam and then seize his land upon return. Savannah, a poet, copes between bouts of genius and depressed hallucination.
Themes of society, class, war, violence and betrayal percolate throughout this novel, taking the listener on a journey of joy, eccentricity, triumph and despair. Conroy works through what many families experience: misunderstandings and the pitfalls of unconditional love. His books are generally set in the south and touch such subjects as the military, religion, environment, mental health, racism and classism not to mention, references to splendid food and music. If you enjoy the Prince of Tides, you many also enjoy his other books, Beach Music (1995) and more recently, South of Broad (2010).
Recommended by Frazier Walker