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Cannonball Read III: Beach Music by Pat Conroy

By The Mama | Books | February 13, 2011 |

By The Mama | Books | February 13, 2011 |

My boss, a voracious reader himself, turned me onto Pat Conroy with South of Broad, and the slightly damning words, “This is not his best book, but you’ll love it.” Having been far too young for Prince of Tides when it debuted (1986), Conroy never appeared on my radar, and after I devoured South of Broad, I immediately searched for anything I could get my hands on. Beach Music was next, and I, quite simply, fell head over heels for it.

Beach Music begins with our protaganist, Jack McCall, describing his wife Shyla’s suicide, the subsequent custody battle with Shyla’s Holocaust survivor parents for his young daughter Leah, and his escape to Rome, leaving behind three brothers, an alcoholic father, his mother Lucy, and everything he knows. Through a long series of events, Jack and Leah return to South Carolina, the state as much a character as any of the humans.

The descriptions of Shyla’s parents’ survival of Nazi occupation, and later the death camps, were a bit long-winded. Perhaps it was that the subject was too horrific, but I found myself skimming those pages, and wishing that we could go forward in time to the present, when the soft salt water waves off the coast of South Carolina help carry Lucy’s beloved baby turtles out to sea on their new journeys.

It’s impossible to summarize a Conroy novel. Beach Music is well over seven hundred pages, and there are literally thousands of nuances and back stories and side stories. To include references to all of them is a feat none of us can manage. The beauty of reading a Conroy novel lies not in the story itself, but in the way he uses his words. You can feel his love of words, of language, of story-telling, reach out to you through the pages. They swirl up and around you, and draw you in with a soft sigh.

Not, I’m assuming, unlike the way his beloved South Carolina would.

For more of The Mama’s reviews, check out her blog, Our Life in Books.

This review is part of Cannonball Read III. For more information, click here.

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