Review: The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy

Only Pat Conroy can write such terrible things so beautifully. Only he can turn a phrase in such a way that he makes his point succinctly and eloquently at the same time. Conroy’s inner conflicts imbue this autobiographical work with the love and hate he has for his father, and to a lesser degree, his mother and siblings. 

I think Conroy is a master wordsmith. I appreciate the beauty and flow of his writing in all the Pat Conroy books I’ve read. But I struggle with The Death of Santini because it’s almost like hearing a child whine. I can read a spectacular passage, and then be disrupted by Conroy’s complaints and persuasion, trying to convince me that his childhood really did happen the way he says it did, that it was as bad as can be, that he is indeed telling the truth.  

I believe him. I don’t need to be convinced. I think his father needed to be convinced. I think his siblings and his extended family need to be convinced. I think Conroy is whining to the wrong crowd. 

Unless. Unless this book isn’t meant for me or you or anyone EXCEPT his family… and Conroy himself. And I think it is. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it. I just don’t feel like in the intended audience. I do think that if Santini admitted his transgressions while Conroy was a child, the psychological damage would have been minimized, and The Death of Santini would not have had to be written. 

The Death of Santini offers a window into the moments of Conroy’s early life that inspired his best-selling novels, and moments of Santini’s later life that inspired Conroy’s love and forgiveness for his father. 



Review: The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy

death of santiniOkay, so I haven’t read all of Pat Conroy’s books. After I read “The Prince of Tides”, I just wasn’t sure how much more I could read by him. Don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE his writing. Perhaps too much. It just seemed too real. For me, I could see it all just plain as day. I believe that it could be happening in any small southern town. Some reviews I looked at said that it was all just too over blown….that people didn’t really live like that. That abuse like that couldn’t be hidden. That the Southern towns he spoke of weren’t *really* like that. Having grown up in the South I disagreed. Having worked with children in State custody, again, I disagreed….but that’s as far as my mind went with it….I didn’t really read much about Conroy’s background. I didn’t care to dig deeper…maybe, somehow, knowing beforehand what I might find….

So, as I ramble on, are you wondering why? Well, if you know and follow Pat Conroy you know he has written a few non-fiction books about his life….well, “The Death of Santini” is another non-fiction novel. It is the story of Pat and his father. More so, it is the story of forgiveness and acceptance between a father and his son. So, I can’t talk about how much confessing Pat does in his other non-fiction books, as I haven’t read them, but I can tell you, he does a lot in this one. He basically explains that every book he has written is really just an out pouring of his life. Every non fiction book is based on his experiences. The names might have been changed. The stories might have grown. However, the rawness, the aching beauty of his writing comes from his own experiences, and yes, the violence is his own as well….

Here we learn that, yes, the horrible father in all the stories, were in fact, stories about Pat’s own father. The *true* “great Santini”, Don Conroy. We learn that every brutal word we read were inspired by the brutality of this one man. We also see the aftermath of what such brutality does to a family. How it tears it apart, not as a whole unit, but by person by person. How it destroys relationships. How it destroys people. However, we also see what it means to be human. How the human spirit sometimes refuses to just take what is handed to it. We see that the same brutalities that sometimes tears people apart, are also the very things that makes someone who they are. That often, we have our own ways of dealing with such things. We might pen it on paper and became a famous author. We might pour it into poetry and became a poet….or perhaps we pour it into our behaviors towards others….we become the father that we never had….or the caretaker that offers nothing except love and support…we might spend decades in a situation and then one day, seemingly out of the blue, we wake up and say no more and make a different life for ourselves….sadly, it might also mean, we can’t take another single day with what we have endured and we find a way to end it right then and there…and we also learn that even when we move ahead, well, that we always carry some part of that past with us. We can often try to control our behavior…we can try to move on….but sometimes that is much easier said than done. It is obvious that Pat Conroy still carries his past with him. I think he always will. One sees that he puts a bit of himself in many of his characters….he might be the strong brother at times, but the broken siblings are also part of who he is…

Most importantly, we see a man, who might not speak aloud of the wrongs he has done, but he turns his life into something that tries to set those wrongs right. This book has made me realize a lesson I’ve always known….but it has put it into full light for me….We should never judge and condone someone unless we walk in their shoes. Wrongs are never right…..but that doesn’t mean we need to be so quick to condemn the person….maybe just the actions…and only as they are occurring….perhaps it’s best to let the past rest in the past and not in the present. Sometimes a second chance is not enough…sometimes it might take more….

I am also reminded (something I’ve experienced first hand) that often, if we hold on to the wrongs of the past that it is not punishing only the person that wronged you (if it even does) but that is punishing yourself the most. Holding on to the bitterness of the past only gives that bitterness a resting place inside of YOU! But how does one let go? I hope one day that Pat Conroy is able to lay to rest the demons that still live inside him…as he has now laid to rest the father that he loved so dearly….

Until next time….

Urania xx

ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review

Buy it now The Death of Santini

Review: The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

princeNever been both, so happy to see a book end and sad at to finish the last page as I have with TPoT. This is one of the types of books I love the most…so beautiful that you ache with each word you read…yet at the same time your gut is clinched in knots that are painful and your heart is pounding out of your chest because of the horrors you are witnessing. yes, I said witnessing. I did not simply *read* this book….I was there. I experienced it. I witnessed it. I felt it….There were parts I laughed so hard that I almost had tears rolling out of my eyes…there were times where I felt so much pride that I wanted to cry…there were times I felt such righteous anger that I had tears of anger blurring my vision….there were times I felt so lost and hopeless that I could only cry….and there were times that this book actually brought chills upon my skin….Finally, there were times that I had no choice except to put the book down for a while and walk away and try to distance myself from it. At times it was simply too much for me to bear….

The grandparents reminded me of characters from a Fannie Flagg novel. So eccentric, outrageous and lovely that you hate your childhood, just because you didn’t have them in it. There is no way you could not feel pure enjoyment at some of the happenings in the town. At other times, I was so mad I could taste bitter bile in my mouth….so angry, I felt my pulse pounding. But most of what I felt was a sorrow that stayed with me, even after I laid the book down and tried to forget.

I grew up in the South. Besides the ending (which was the only objection I had to this entire book, I felt the ending was just too much….too contrived to be believable), I felt that this novel was not a work of fiction. It was a life that could be found in many many a Southern town. I bet I knew some of these people. I bet some of me can be found in these pages. I felt fierce pride at so many moments in this book. Pride for perhaps the first time at being a Southerner. At other times, I knew for a certainty why I no longer live there. This…Book….Was…..Very….Real to me….

It would be so easy to point the finger at any of the characters in this book and tell them why they were wrong. It would be just as easy to understand why they were as broken as they were.

What one can not so easily explain is how they are still beautiful and how you have no choice but to love each and every one of them. What is so hard to accept about your own self is that you feel sorrow for them. That despite the horrible things that they did, you understand that they are all good people. That they all have a fierce love for family. That they did so much wrong, but that in the end, they honestly did the best that they could in that moment in time.

I like to think we are all above how we were raised. That every bad rotten thing we experienced or witnessed has made us into a better person. I like to think that we all have the power within us to *always* do the right thing. Life however has taught us all otherwise. Can any one of us not think of a single time where we have had wrongs done to us and wish we had behaved differently? No, most of us have not done atrocities to those we love….nor have we had atrocities done to us….but can any one of us look back and not see one instance where we wish we had chosen a different way? A better way. Reacted differently? In the end, they are just people who did what they did and wished that they had behaved differently. They suffered for the choices that they made, because they had to live with those choices. They did not simply act and move on….

We should all take away from this book that the choices we make not only effect other people, they also effect us. There is no running away from the past. The past is a part of you that you always carry with you….No matter how much you deny it or reject it…it is still a part of you. Good or bad, it helps to shape you into the person you are today. No, we do not have to constantly live in the past….but let us all hope that we have learned from our own personal history. It’s never to late to change your life…I sincerely hope that it’s never to late to make amends and try to make it right….


Buy it now The Prince of Tides: A Novel

Review: The Great Santini by Pat Conroy

4 stars

After reading The Prince of Tides, I wanted more literature by Pat Conroy. Yes, I said literature. Because that’s how good Conroy’s writing is. He puts so much good stuff into a story that by the time you’ve wrapped your head around it all, he’s punched you in the gut with something unexpected. Conroy uses a lot of fancy vocabulary, so have a dictionary nearby. Sometimes my built in Kindle dictionary doesn’t even have the words he uses.

The Great Santini is about a military man whose ego is so huge that he lives to overshadow his military corps, his airplanes, and his family. He is a mean son of a gun, and his family loves him and hates him, knows him and knows nothing about him.

I’m not into military stories or historical novels, but this book held my interest anyway. There may have been more pages about the Marine Corps, but there was more substance about the lieutenant corporal’s family. They held together while I held my shoulders tense knowing there’d be some abuse in this book. Conroy also comments on coming of age, racism, classism, education, sports, poverty, and the fraudulence of southern charm.

I enjoyed The Great Santini. I didn’t love it as much as The Prince of Tides, but it’s an excellent study in the relationship between a father and son. Even if I did predict the ending. 😉

– Calliope

Buy It Now The Great Santini