South of Broad , The Church of the KHS Class of '72, and Friends Close to my Heart

I recently read Pat Conroy's newest novel South of Broad. I was still haunted by images in The Prince of Tides, which I had read many years ago, but was still eager to immerse myself in his prose again.

"I carry the delicate porcelain beauty of Charleston like a hinged shell of some soft-tissued mollusk. My soul is peninsula-shaped and sun-hardened and river-swollen. The high tides of the city flood my consciousness every day, subject to the whims and harmonies of full moons rising out of the Atlantic."

Leopold Bloom King narrates a story about his life in Charleston from the mid-sixties through the eighties. Right before his senior year in high school Leo is thrown together with a diverse group of students that will soon join Leo in a bond of friendship that carries them through the rest of their lives. Themes of friendship, understanding, and forgiveness are woven throughout the book as Conroy explores suicide, difficult mother/son relationships, and racism .

I don't know if it was the best book written about friendship. I don't know if Pat Conroy has " lost his touch" after not publishing a book for so many years. I do know he understands the love of a place and the love of lifelong friends. When I listened to an interview with Pat Conroy he discussed the theme of friendship. " The friends that mean the most to me are the friends I have known the longest." Those are the friends he calls if he needs advice, a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on. Conroy gathered images of the city he loved and his experiences of friendship and created a story that opens our eyes to the class system in Charleston, a love between a father and son, and what lifelong friends will do for each other.

I began reading this book right after my brother had written a post on his blog entitled " The Church of the KHS Class of "72 ." You can find it here. In this post Raymond Pert helped many of us understand how the church he has created with his lifelong friends is a church of the spirit." It's church the way I long for church to be. It's a church where we come with our broken and improving lives and know that we are in the company of other broken and improving people and so there is no pretense of any one being better than anyone else, nor any pretense of righteousness."

Leo and his friends in Charlston had their own church in South of Broad. This church was also about people that had been broken. I couldn't help but draw a parallel between the two. Both Raymond Pert and Leo loved the town where they grew up. Leo never left Charlston. Raymond Pert continues to return to Kellogg. Both of them created a lifetime bond with a special group of people. Leo would fly across the United States to help a friend find her brother. RP has been there over and over again to provide support for his lifelong friends.

I also hold my lifelong friends close to my heart. That is one reason why I enjoy Facebook. Reconnecting with childhood friends and relatives has been a rewarding experience. We share like memories whether it recalling summers visiting relatives or hometown friends remembering school experiences. Many of us went through events that brought us closer. What I have found recently is a common love for our hometown, schooldays, friendships, and family. Each of us cares about what life holds for each other now. Whether is was a picture of a grandson's first day of school or a group photo from a child's wedding, we all give the Facebook posts a thumbs up and add enthusiastic comments. I don't know if I am ready to call Facebook a church, but the reading of this book, my brother's blog post and reconnecting and sharing of memories on Facebook has warmed my heart.

1 comment:

  1. Run, don't walk - to get the cookbook that Pat Conroy wrote. It is full of stories about love of place and friends. It is on spit point what you write here.

    It isn't about the recipes.

    Read it. And if your brother hasn't read it, buy him a copy.

    It is powerful, I'm telling you what I know.


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