RIP Pat Conroy

One of my all-time favorite authors, Pat Conroy, died yesterday. His books included The Great Santini, Prince of Tides, The Lords of Discipline, Beach Music, The Water is Wide, and My Losing Season.

I’ve read them all, most of them many times.

“The reason I write is to explain my life to myself,” Conroy said in a 1986 interview. “I’ve also discovered that when I do, I’m explaining other people’s lives to them.”

Conroy was one of the best authors I’ve ever read at creating characters that he brought to life in my mind with his words. At times I pitied them followed by cheering for them. I watched them fail only to later succeed – or fail again. I both hated them and loved them. Above all I understood them, because they had the same good and bad traits that I myself possess. They were real people to me, and Conroy made them real through his prose.

In addition to his characters, Conroy’s writings brought the natural splendor of South Carolina to life. When you read his descriptions of the Low Country, you cannot help but appreciate its uniqueness and incredible beauty. It was a place he deeply loved, just as he loved the people he described in his books – even at the same time he hated them.

Conroy was 70 years old and died of pancreatic cancer.

“The water is wide and he has now passed over,” his wife, novelist Cassandra Conroy, said in a statement from publisher Doubleday.

RIP Pat Conroy, you helped me and thousands upon thousands of others to better understand ourselves through your mastery of the craft of writing.

Maybe I’ll get the chance to tell you all this someday on the other side of the water.

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