South of Broad

Pat Conroy South of Broad

I have spent the past two days doing a major cleaning overhaul in the cottage. I have gutted my closets and have bags of items to donate to the charity shop as well as a few pieces that are going to become cleaning rags. I have gone through the cabinet under the sink in the bathroom, you know which cabinet I’m talking about, the one that all bathroom things somehow get relegated too and they quietly build up into a dusty mess. I have also revamped the den, putting a few Fall things out, even though we are still in the hot throws of Summer and today I am going to change around the kitchen.

I don’ have a picture to share with you today, what I wanted to share with you was a book. I love reading! I need to read, it satisfies my soul. I have mentioned before that my Mom and I trade books. She gave me a Pat Conroy novel she had finished reading and I have had it sitting on my ever growing book pile since Easter. I dove into it in July and furiously read it on the plane ride home. It was immense. It was called South of Broad.

The book focuses on the life of Leo King and the friends he makes while a teenager in Charleston, South Carolina. The story grows and gives roots to these characters who stay a part of each other’s lives, even as they grow older. The description that Conroy gives of Charleston, left me breathless at times. I felt as if I too was riding my bike through the main character’s (Leo King) newspaper route. I know those roads like the back of my hand. Charleston has long been in my blood and for many years it was my home. I could close my eye and follow his route in my head, seeing the streets and homes I would pass.

As I read, I drank in his words like a cool mint julep flowing over my lips. The bite of bourbon, the sweetness of the sugar and the refreshing taste of the mint all mingling together on your tongue before you swallow. I savoured Conroy’s use of the English vernacular, I savoured his use of the Southern vernacular. He wrote about home between those pages, the smell of the tide coming in and the pluff mud as only a Charlestonian would know it. He wrote life between those pages.

His words as majestic as the full moon rising over the incoming tide in the Ashley River, as heavenly as sweet tea and hot buttered biscuits on your tongue. The taste of the dough and butter oozing over your palette as sacred a ritual as taking communion.

I felt as if I knew the friends between those pages, that I had somehow become part of their story, peering through their windows as I walked along the Battery. This book was a truly scrumptious read, from teenage life into adulthood, the friends we meet along the way who change us, as we change them, and a book about life and the paths we all take, whether the crossing of one’s path to another’s, betters it, destroys it, or enriches it.

“What’s important is that a story changes every time you say it out loud. When you put it on paper, it can never change. But the more times you tell it, the more changes will occur. A story is a living thing; it moves and shifts” – Pat Conroy, South of Broad