Conroy, Pat. South of Broad. New York: Dial Press, 2009.
Leo King shares the story of his life in Charleston and the many people that he encountered one summer that became his life-long friends.
The story was compelling, but the last hundred pages seemed a bit...forced. It is like Conroy is trying to include all the cliches (e.g., gay actor with AIDS, pedophile priest, emotionally distant mother). I enjoyed the characters, but question the believability of this group of kids becoming life-long friends, especially friends that literally drop everything for two weeks to help one of the group. I also think it was a bit too convenient for one of the town's businessmen to help Leo so much.
I didn't like how Conroy finished Sheba & Trevor's dad's story. Again, it didn't seem believable to me. Conroy makes references to Broad Street in Charleston and how this is both a physical dividing line of the town as well as a socio-economic one. Haves and have nots, privileged and poor, black and white are all issues described in this book.
Leo, known as Toad, has a nervous breakdown at a very young age. This breakdown is evident throughout the story, yet he seems at times, the most sane and normal of the characters. I enjoyed reading about his paper route, as I once had a route myself. The paper carrier is a great observer of people. Leo eventually leaves the route and becomes a journalist for the paper that of his childhood route. His parents past also become an important piece of Leo's story. Once he learns of his parents' past, Leo begins to understand so many things of his own life.
This was my first read of Pat Conroy. I will probably pick up another of his books because I enjoyed most of this book. I found myself underlining passages in the book because of the way they were written. Conroy's characters are memorable.
Ironically, there is a reference to September 8, which I read on September 8.