"Have you thought about writing your family history, but found yourself stuck from the start? Writing a family narrative can be a daunting task, but Karen Jones Gowen found a way to bring her mother's story to life." (Homespun Magazine)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Family Sagas

I just finished reading The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy, a family saga based in the South. It's about shrimping, parenting, marriage, poetry, football, war, love, hate. It's set in the South Carolina low country and Manhattan. It took my breath away with the brilliance of the writing, the depth of characterizations, the masterly plotting, the truth of relationships, the compelling dialogue. Am I gushing? This is a very gush-worthy novel.

I read a lot of all kinds of books, many are enjoyable and entertaining or I wouldn't finish them. Not too many stay with me for days afterward and impact my life so that I feel changed in some significant way after the experience. Family sagas are one of my favorite genre but since many are written as historical fiction and romance, often light and fast-moving, I haven't come across a really good one to savor in a very long time. Until now.

Then there is Conroy's writing. Here are his opening two paragraphs:

My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call.

I grew up slowly beside the tides and marshes of Colleton; my arms were tawny and strong from working long days on the shrimp boat in the blazing South Carolina heat. Because I was a Wingo, I worked as soon as I could walk; I could pick a blue crab clean when I was five. I had killed my first deer by the age of seven, and at nine I was regularly putting meat on my family's table. I was born and raised on a Carolina sea island and I carried the sunshine of the lowcountry, inked in dark gold, on my back and shoulders. As a boy, I was happy above the channels, navigating a small boat between the sandbars with their quiet nation of oysters exposed on the brown flats at the low watermark. I knew every shrimper by name, and they knew me and sounded their horns when they passed me fishing in the river.

This book is one I will go back to again and again. I read a library copy, now I want my own. Conroy didn't write a memoir, although he bases a lot of his characters and stories on real people and incidents, much like Willa Cather did with her Nebraska novels. 


  1. Yep! I was hooked before I finished the first page. I've read it a couple of times through the years and recommend it to anyone who will listen.

  2. Pat, I'm not surprised that you're a fan of this book.

  3. Well, now I'll have to get the book. I've seen the movie several times and love the story. Thanks, Karen.

  4. I haven't read the book, but it sounds great! Thanks for telling us about it. :)

  5. This book sounds like a keeper! Must read it.
    Thanks for sharing.


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