by Pat Conroy
First and foremost, this is the biggest disappointment I’ve experienced in a long time. What happened to Pat Conroy? Doesn’t anyone edit his work anymore? This novel is completely out of control.
Our story starts out nicely enough: Leopold “Leo” Bloom King is determined to have a great senior year of high school. His life has, up until now, been defined by tragedy: the tragedy of his older brother’s suicide. Leo hit a rough patch, got into legal trouble, and spent some time in a mental hospital. But he is okay now and determined to start anew.
This, of course, is not so easy when his cold-hearted mother is the principal of his school. Really, Mother King is quite reminiscent of Ordinary People’s Beth Jarrett.
Anyway, Leo assembles a unique circle of friends in his senior year: black, white, rich, poor, orphaned, and related to psychopaths. The novel chronicles this group, from its inception in the days of integration to AIDS to the disaster simply known as Hugo. The Charlestonians will live, love, laugh, hate, fight, etc.
I don’t know where to start with my critique of this novel. So, here goes:
• It is too long. Every description of Charleston is a flowery love letter to the city. Ugh.
• It is full of clichés. Characters named Niles and Fraser dating? Really?
• There are simply too many characters to follow. By the end, when readers find out why Leo’s brother killed himself, it just seems odd and slapped on at the last minute. Readers had almost forgotten about him.
• The plotting could have been much tighter. The San Francisco interlude was annoying, and the Hugo section was boring.
I don’t know what happened to the great Pat Conroy, but I hope that all is not lost. His other novels are amazing. This was just one big disappointment