Nan A. Talese/Random House
512 pg HC
My ThoughtsUp until the age of nine, Leo King's life was darn near perfect. He had the best older brother anyone could wish for; gorgeous and protective. Leo didn't even have to worry about making friends. All that changed when Leo finds Stephen dead.
Leo King's life takes a sudden downturn as he battles with a depression so severe he ends up in a mental institution. Later, Leo is accused of a crime he didn't commit, and thus begins his long, struggle back to reality. He's thrust into a group of people who would never be friends under normal circumstances and finally, at the age of eighteen, he feels like his life is starting to come together.
We really get to meet Leo King on his paper route. Pat Conroy uses this route to describe Charleston, South Carolina in sentences that carry so many metaphors and similes you are lost in the language instead of the picture he's trying to paint.
"my city...as it lay simmering in the hot-blooded saps of June while the sun began to set, reddening the vest of cirrus clouds that had gathered along the western horizon."
It was difficult to really get a feel for the people as the city has overwhelmed you with it's presence. It was a struggle to continue reading.
Later, as we are introduced to Trevor and Sheba, the twins who move across the street from Leo, we start to make connections with the characters. But it's never complete for me. With the exception of Ike, each character's life seemed to be touched with so much sorrow and heartbreak, it was melodramatic.
Sheba, a world famous actress reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe, returns to Charleston in search of Leo, a world famous journalist. She asks Leo and the rest of the gang to help her find her brother, Trevor. He's disappeared without a trace and she's sure something is desperately wrong. Everyone, except rich kids Chad and Frasier, travel to the underbelly of San Francisco, a world of sex and drugs and death, to see what they can do. We uncover more of Trevor and Sheba's sordid and horrible past and wonder how the twins were able to get up each day. Neither parent is a joy but their father is pure evil. The gang also try to track down the dad before he strikes again but aren't able to find him before he does some major damage to the group
South of Broad had some moments where I was completely immersed in the story but more parts were so unbelievable I never found myself enjoying it. It was if Conroy was trying to shock the reader with hints of racism, pedophilia, AIDS, cancer, suicide and rape. One or two would have been sufficient. The issues so overwhelmed the story that I never recovered. I needed more hope than Conroy was able to offer.
Leo, on the other hand, was lucky. He made some true friends who stuck by each other despite the turbulence. Through his friendships with this group, Leo understood that although each person is a product of his or her upbringing, he or she can use those circumstances to make their lives better or they can be strangled and stifled by the past. The friends Leo made and the people he encountered throughout Charleston helped him to move away from the specter of his brother's suicide and into his own life.
About the Author
Visit Pat Conroy’s website for more info about his work.
Blog Tour Stops - all stops
Books and Cooks 4/12
Po(sey) Sessions 4/14
Life in the Thumb 4/15