Award-winning author Pat Conroy passed away on March 4, at age 70. We profiled him in 2013, and thought today would be a good time to revisit that post:
Pat Conroy is a New York Times best selling author who has written several acclaimed novels and memoirs. Two of his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini were made into Oscar nominated films.
Pat published his first book, The Boo, while attending Citadel Military Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. He became a teacher, but was fired for his unconventional teaching practices. Pat never taught again, but published a memoir, The Water is Wide, exposing the racism and appalling conditions at the school.
The Great Santini, was published in 1976, and chronicles the author’s childhood and his ambivalent love for his violent and abusive father. In 1980, The Lords of Discipline was published exposing The Citadel’s harsh military discipline and racism. Prince of Tides was published in 1986, followed by Beach Music in 1995. While on tour for this book, members of The Citadel’s basketball team came back into his life. This inspired him to write My Losing Season. His next novel, South of Broad, is a love letter to the city of Charleston. This was followed by The Pat Conroy Cookbook and finally, My Reading Life in 2010.
His latest book is The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and Son. Pat Conroy’s father, Donald Patrick Conroy, was a towering figure in his son’s life. The Marine Corps fighter pilot was often brutal, cruel, and violent. As the oldest of seven children who were dragged from military base to military base across the South, Pat bore witness to the toll his father’s behavior took on his siblings, and especially on his mother, Peg. She was Pat’s lifeline to a better world—that of books and culture. But eventually, despite repeated confrontations with his father, Pat managed to claw his way toward a life he could have only imagined as a child.
Pat’s great success as a writer has always been intimately linked with the exploration of his family history. While the publication of The Great Santini brought Pat much acclaim, the rift it caused with his father brought even more attention. Their long-simmering conflict burst into the open, fracturing an already battered family. But as Pat tenderly chronicles here, even the oldest of wounds can heal. In the final years of Don Conroy’s life, he and his son reached a rapprochement of sorts. Quite unexpectedly, the Santini who had freely doled out physical abuse to his wife and children refocused his ire on those who had turned on Pat over the years. He defended his son’s honor.
The Death of Santini is at once a heart-wrenching account of personal and family struggle and a poignant lesson in how the ties of blood can both strangle and offer succor. It is an act of reckoning, an exorcism of demons, but one whose ultimate conclusion is that love can soften even the meanest of men, lending significance to one of the most-often quoted lines from Pat’s bestselling novel The Prince of Tides: “In families there are no crimes beyond forgiveness.”
To watch an interview between ABC newsman Charlie Gibson and Pat Conroy, click here.