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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

Yesterday, I finished reading a book that can only be described as disappointing for me. The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy is one of those books that I can certainly see the merit for, but can’t fully grasp.

After reading Conroy’s latest novel, South of Broad, I was intrigued to go furthur with the author. His expertise in writing exceeded many authors I had read before and he really knew how to drag me into the story. As for The Water is Wide, I was only dragged slightly and tried to escape several times.

The book is a memoir. It’s a look back on a year’s worth of teaching Conroy did on a small island called Yamacraw. All the children he meets when he gets to the island are so cut off from the outside world that he must teach them simple things just to give them a broad understanding of life. Some of the children don’t even know how to read; many cannot write.

Throughout the book, there are a lot of political issues that arise between the schoolboard officials, Conroy, and the other parents and teachers on the island. In fact, I’d say most of the book deals with those issues. Of course, one of the main areas of focus is the racial difference between whites and blacks. At first, most of the parents and teachers on the island are leary of a white schoolteacher, but then they eventually grow comfortable with Conroy.

I wished he would have spent more time on his dealings with the students instead of the political situation on the island. The occasions that he did talk about the children were too few, but very entertaining. Over the course of his year there, he was able to take the children off the island at least three times and expose them to the world. It was interesting to hear about their reactions.

Overall, this book is definitely a must read for anyone who wants to be a teacher. I can understand why so many college professors often use this book in their classes. It gives you a different view of teaching, lent to the fact that Conroy taught in such an extreme environment with children who had no previous exposure to much of the real world.

But as for me, it was too longwinded. Maybe the next Conroy novel I read will be better?

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