Monday, January 27, 2014

South of Broad

6135237 Title: South of Broad
Author: Pat Conroy
Read: December 27, 2013

Summary: Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. Leopold Bloom King, our narrator, is the son of an amiable, loving father who teaches science at the local high school. His mother, an ex-nun, is the high school principal and a well-known Joyce scholar. After Leo's older brother commits suicide at the age of thirteen, the family struggles with the shattering effects of his death, and Leo, lonely and isolated, searches for something to sustain him. Eventually, he finds his answer when he becomes part of a tightly knit group of high school seniors that includes friends Sheba and Trevor Poe, glamorous twins with an alcoholic mother and a prison-escapee father; hardscrabble mountain runaways Niles and Starla Whitehead; socialite Molly Huger and her boyfriend, Chadworth Rutledge X; and an ever-widening circle whose liaisons will ripple across two decades-from 1960s counterculture through the dawn of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The ties among them endure for years, surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, and Charleston's dark legacy of racism and class divisions. But the final test of friendship that brings them to San Francisco is something no one is prepared for. South of Broad is Pat Conroy at his finest; a long-awaited work from a great American writer whose passion for life and language knows no bounds. goodreads

Review: Oh, this book and Pat Conroy officially have my heart. I've heard of Conroy for years but never read one of his books. I've also lived in SC for about 12 years and am what they lovely southerners refer to as a "transplant." Despite that, even I, a second generation Yankee, can feel the pull of Charleston. And not the touristy, "let's look at the pretty houses on the Battery" pull, but the resident of South Carolina, weekend trips to the real Charleston, summers on the beach pull. It's easy to fall in love with this city and South of Broad is like a love letter to the Holy City.

Where do I begin?!? The characters were phenomenal! They were well rounded and from every walk of life and I could picture meeting them in high school as well as how they got to where they are now. Their personalities and upbringings mimic real residents of SC who I've grown up with and it makes me connect to this story even more. (Sidenote: is this for everyone or just people in SC? I'm biased and need a baseline.) Who wouldn't love Leo and fall under Sheba's spell. Who didn't want Trevor for a best friend and Niles on the police force? It all just seemed genuine and to me, that's the makings of a good book!

The story line has something for everyone. It addresses everything from the AIDs epidemic to race to natural disasters. There is substance abuse (many types of abuse), mental illness, and culture gaps. There is action, love, and heartbreak. And through it all, loyalty. Unfathomable loyalty.

I know I'm gushing at this point but how can I not? I dare you to read this book and not be swept away to Charleston or San Francisco with these characters. I dare you to have your heart not break right along with the characters throughout these 20 years of life. I dare you not to have this book make you think deeper about real issues that still exist today, 30-50 years later. Read this book. I dare you.

I'm amazed that I'm one of the few who feel this way on goodreads. Interesting...
I'm amazed that I'm one of the few who feel this way on goodreads. Interesting...

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