Charleston, SC is one of my favorite places to visit - even though I've only been there once. So, when I heard about Pat Conroy's newest fiction piece, South of Broad, I was excited to read it. The book is set in the holy city. After reading it, I want to go back an see the places that are mentioned in the book and connect with the setting.
The first of Conroy's books that I experienced was The Water is Wide, his story about teaching on an isolated island in the lower part of the state. It was the selected text for my Cultural Diversity class in my graduate program. I didn't really care for that one because it took quite awhile to get started. I was hesitant to read this one, but after hearing several people talk about it and finding it placed on the Top 100 Best Seller list of Barnes and Nobles, I went ahead and purchased it.
A friend of mine told me that she doesn't normally read Conoroy because he writes "too pretty." If that is a reason you haven't read this book, you need to stop making excuses and read. Conroy tells the story of a young boy in Charleston who is on the outskirts of society. His family is just important enough to eat at the yacht club, but not attend the cotillions of the born and bred Charlestonians. Toad, or Leo, the main character of the story tells the story of being an adolescent with a criminal record in a society town. As a young child, Leo's brother commits suicide and Leo spends the rest of his life coming to terms with his death. He finds himself among a ragtaggled bunch of friends - 2 orphans, a set of worldly twins running from their abusive father, a black football player, and 3 blue bloods.
The story begins in the 70's when integration is causing grief for most of Charleston. The fact that Leo is associating with people of color creates a world of pain for this group. And throw in that one of the twins is a homosexual. Life is not easy for this group.
It was an easy read, but one that didn't move quickly. Compared to The Water Is Wide, I enjoyed this considerably more.