Wednesday, August 02, 2017

"South of Broad" by Pat Conroy - A Love Letter To Charleston And Its Colorful Denizens

When the literary world lost Pat Conroy in 2016, we lost a great one. I have delighted in his novels over the years, and was thrilled to read "South of Broad." This is Conroy at his best, rhapsodizing about the charms of his beloved Charleston, while at the same time exposing its vulnerable underbelly of racism and classism.

Leopold Bloom King is saddled with the name of the hero of James Joyce's novel "Ulysses," because Leo's mother was obsessed with Joyce. We follow Leo's adventures with his quirky family, and his coterie of friends that span the spectrum from abandoned orphans, to a pair of troubled twins,  to the flower of Charleston society. Along the way, their loyalties are tested as Sheba, one of the twins, returns to town after a spectacular Hollywood career. She needs help in finding her flamboyant brother, whose has disappeared in San Francisco in the midst of the AIDS crisis.The friends
respond and go kinetic in the bowels of the Tenderloin.

Conroy paints vivid pictures of places that he loves, and of people that the reader learns to love. They are colorful, quirky, and unforgettable. He keeps the focus on the personal and relational level while exploring faith and societal issues. It is a winning combination.

The bottom line is that I cannot wait to get to Charleston and breathe some of the air that filed Conroy's lungs and soul for the length of his career.



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