Okay, 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….
ARC provided by Netgalley for an honest review
Buy it now The Death of Santini