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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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Kate Langenburg/A&E Groove

Because people know that I loooove to read, I am often the recipient of books that “you absolutely have to read.” Today’s post is about the latest book I’ve been given, and it does, in fact, fall into that category.

When I was first loaned the book South of Broad by Pat Conroy, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never read anything by the author, so it was a real shot in the dark for me. At the beginning of the book, I was drawn in by its charm, very likeable main character named Leo King, and the easiness that comes with Conroy’s writing style.

Pat Conroy's latest book is a must-read!

Pat Conroy's latest book is a must-read!

Here’s a brief synopsis: We meet Leo King and he introduces us to his lovely town of Charleston. He is a paper delivery boy whose life is changed during one summer when he meets the people he will remain friends with for the rest of his life. All of his friends are plagued by certain obstacles in their own lives, such as racial identity, family issues, and discovering who they are.

The book travels in between Leo’s past as a child with his friends and the present, during which he is a leading columnist for the Charleston newspaper he once delivered on the foot of many people’s doorsteps. One of his friends, Trevor, has gone missing in the present and they all travel out to San Fransisco to find him and save him — the awful truth is that he is dying of AIDS.

In their traveling, the friends discover new emotions and relationships with each other. However, the whole time they are there, they are being stalked by Trevor and his sister Sheba’s father, who intends to kill them. The story weaves in and out between San Fransisco, Charleston, past and present from there.

This book was truly great; a rare gem amongst fiction books. It makes you become incredibly engrossed in it’s story. So engrossed, probably, that you will put other things off just to lock yourself in a nice comfy reading place to finish it. But hey, that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea to me!

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