The Water Is Wider: Good Bye Mr. Conroy
With the deaths of singer Joey Feek and former First Lady Nancy Reagan, the passing of Pat Conroy on Friday night seems to have been ignored. Upon hearing the news early Saturday morning, my heart and mood plummeted. America had lost a great treasure; a gifted writer and storyteller.
Like many, I came upon Mr. Conroy when The Prince of Tides rose to the top of the best seller list. His style of storytelling captivated me. I rushed to read everything that he had written, much of what was painful to read. (As good fiction can often be when the story creeps into your being and won't let go.)
Although he might be best known for The Prince of Tides (even The Simpson's jumped in with "The Fear of Flying") and The Great Santini, my personal favorite is Beach Music. (The Prince of Tides and The Water is Wide tie for second place.) (http://bfthsboringblog.blogspot.com/2015/02/books-that-have-stayed-with-me.html). After my first time through, I brought the book with me to the Jersey Shore and over the years it became my "go to" book when I wanted to take something with me to the beach to read. My paperback copy was well loved and well worn. I kept it at the bottom of my beach bag where it got sandy and slightly stained with suntan lotion. It stayed at the bottom of the bag at the end of the summer in 2012. It was destroyed with so many other things that fall when Superstorm Sandy rushed in.
I found another copy recently at a Thrift Shop. I picked it up and packed it away with the intention of bringing it to the shore for a read this summer. Only a week or so after I found it did Mr. Conroy announce on Facebook that he was battling Pancreatic Cancer. That was in the middle of February. My heart broke when I read the news, but Mr. Conroy's spirit was still alive and active as he stated his readers deserved a new novel and he intended to deliver it.
I don't know if that novel will ever make it to the light of day now. But I loved his passion for the written word. To me he was more than just a writer or novelist, he was a storyteller. A great storyteller captures you and envelopes you with his (or her) tale. A great story is not read just once, but over and over again. And each time is a joy.
Pat Conroy's novels brought me joy. His stories captivated me. One reading was never enough. His tales need to be read over and over again; and you will laugh and cry over and over again.
I am still in the midst of my Pulitzer Project. (Mr. Conroy never won, but in my opinion The Prince of Tides and Beach Music were certainly worthy of one.) I think it is only right that once I finish reading my current one that I pause and go back and read one of his books. I'm not sure if it will be The Prince of Tides, South of Broad or The Water is Wide, but it will be one of them. I will savor every sentence.
Why not Beach Music? That I have reserved a special time and place for. My "new" well-worn second hand copy will be re-read this summer. I will read it on the beach and sand will get in between its pages. I will read it on the deck as the sea breezes blow. As the sun goes down and the heat rises of the ground, I will read Beach Music. And when I am again finished, I will cry.
Thank you Mr. Conroy. Thank you for the tears and laughter. Thank you for sharing your magnificent stories with me and the rest of the world.