The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son [NOOK Book]

Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
 
Pat Conroy’s great success as a writer has always been intimately linked with the exploration of his family history. As the oldest of seven children who were dragged from military base to military base across the South, Pat bore witness to the often cruel and violent behavior of his father, Marine Corps fighter ...
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The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
 
Pat Conroy’s great success as a writer has always been intimately linked with the exploration of his family history. As the oldest of seven children who were dragged from military base to military base across the South, Pat bore witness to the often cruel and violent behavior of his father, Marine Corps fighter pilot Donald Patrick Conroy. While the publication of The Great Santini brought Pat much acclaim, the rift it caused brought even more attention, fracturing an already battered family. But as Pat tenderly chronicles here, even the oldest of wounds can heal. In the final years of Don Conroy’s life, the Santini unexpectedly refocused his ire to defend his son’s honor.
 
The Death of Santini is a heart-wrenching act of reckoning whose ultimate conclusion is that love can soften even the meanest of men, lending significance to the oft-quoted line from Pat’s novel The Prince of Tides: “In families there are no crimes beyond forgiveness.”
 
Praise for The Death of Santini
 
“A brilliant storyteller, a master of sarcasm, and a hallucinatory stylist whose obsession with the impress of the past on the present binds him to Southern literary tradition.”The Boston Globe
 
“A painful, lyrical, addictive read that [Pat Conroy’s] fans won’t want to miss.”People
 
“Conroy’s conviction pulls you fleetly through the book, as does the potency of his bond with his family, no matter their sins.”The New York Times Book Review
 
“Vital, large-hearted and often raucously funny.”The Washington Post
 
“Conroy writes athletically and beautifully, slicing through painful memories like a point guard splitting the defense.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Pat Conroy's first novel made him famous, became the subject of an Oscar-nominated film, and helped destroy his marriage. His 1976 The Great Santini was largely autobiographical, offering a disturbing portrait of a domineering, abusive military father and the effects his treatment had on his children. Conroy's family vehemently objected to this betrayal of family secrets; some even picketed bookstores in protest. Perhaps strangely though, this cathartic fiction helped repair the very real breach between Don Conroy and his seven offspring. Described by one early reader as "a valentine to his father," The Death of Santini recounts the close relationship Pat Conroy and his dad shared in the latter's final years.

The Atlanta Journal
Conroy is a master of language.
The Washington Post - Chris Bohjalian
Conroy is an immensely gifted stylist . . . No one can describe a tide or a sunset with his lyricism and exactitude.
Houston Chronicle
Reading Pat Conroy is like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel.
People
Conroy writes with a momentum that's impossible to resist.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Conroy takes aim at our darkest emotions, lets the arrow fly, and hits the bull's-eye almost every time.
The Boston Globe
God preserve Pat Conroy.
Publishers Weekly
12/09/2013
Making amends is on Conroy's mind in his 11th book. Over the years unflattering versions of his parents and siblings have popped up in books like The Great Santini and Prince of Tides. Here fiction meets reality in scenes of his mother going after his abusive father with a knife, constant verbal onslaughts from all directions, and mental breakdowns of several family members. That his siblings discount some of his claims is tossed aside as selective memory on their parts. Conroy has a job to do, that of mythologizing the clan for all time. His mother becomes Lady Macbeth and his father a noble ex-Marine who says his son lies about the family while also going on book tours and giving interviews on CNN. While the intent may have been to paint a more honest picture of his parents, Conroy only shows himself to be insecure about the legacy of his books. He connects jealousy over his writing to the death of his brother Tom Conroy and to the madness of his sister Carol Ann Conroy. These connections seem mostly in his head and are rendered in histrionic sappy prose. In the end his picture of the Conroy clan is one of deeply flawed people convinced the world is against them, those aspects are fetishized to an operatic level. But as Conroy points out many times in the book, this could all be in his head. Agent: Marly Rusoff, Marly Rusoff Literary Agency. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
The Death of Santini instantly reminded me of the decadent pleasures of [Conroy's] language, of his promiscuous gift for metaphor and of his ability, in the finest passages of his fiction, to make the love, hurt or terror a protagonist feels seem to be the only emotion the world could possibly have room for, the rightful center of the trembling universe....Conroy’s conviction pulls you fleetly through the book, as does the potency of his bond with his family, no matter their sins, their discord, their shortcomings.” —Frank Bruni, The New York Times Book Review

“In several of his 12 previous books, bestseller Conroy mined his brutal South Carolina childhood—most directly in the book that became a 1979 hit movie, The Great Santini, about a violent fighter pilot and his defiant son. In this memoir, the 68-year-old sheds the fictional veil, taking ‘one more night flight into the immortal darkness to study that house of pain a final time.’ The result is a painful, lyrical, addictive read that his fans won’t want to miss.” People, 3 ½ out of 4 stars
 
“Despite the inherently bleak nature of so much of this material, Conroy has fashioned a memoir that is vital, large-hearted and often raucously funny. The result is an act of hard-won forgiveness, a deeply considered meditation on the impossibly complex nature of families and a valuable contribution to the literature of fathers and sons.” —The Washington Post

“Conroy remains a brilliant storyteller, a master of sarcasm, and a hallucinatory stylist whose obsession with the impress of the past on the present binds him to Southern literary tradition.” —The Boston Globe

“Conroy has the reflective ability that comes only with age. He has a deeper understanding of his father and the havoc he brought to his family.…But against the backdrop of ugliness and pain, Conroy also describes a certain kind of love, even forgiveness.” —Associated Press

“Conroy writes athletically and beautifully, slicing through painful memories like a point guard splitting the defense….It is a fast but wrenching read, filled with madness and abuse, big-hearted description and snarky sibling dialogue — all as Conroy comes to terms with what he calls ‘the weird-ass ruffled strangeness of the Conroy family.’” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
 
“A heady, irresistible confusion of love and hate, ‘one more night flight into the immortal darkness to study that house of pain one more time,’ to prove how low his princes and princesses of Tides can sink and how high they can soar. True Conroy fans wouldn’t have it any other way.” —Atlanta Journal-Constitution
 
“An emotionally difficult journey that should lend fans of Conroy’s fiction an insightful back story to his richly imagined characters. The moving true story of an unforgiveable father and his unlikely redemption.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-09-25
One of the most widely read authors from the American South puts his demons to bed at long last. One doesn't have to have read The Great Santini (1976) to know that Pat Conroy (My Reading Life, 2010, etc.) was deeply scarred by his childhood. It is the theme of his work and his life, from the love-hate relationship in The Lords of Discipline (1980) to broken Tom Wingo in The Prince of Tides (1986) to the mourning survivor Jack McCall in Beach Music (1995). In this memoir, Conroy unflinchingly reveals that his father, fighter pilot Donald Conroy, was actually much worse than the abusive Meechum in his novel. Telling the truth also forces the author to confront a number of difficult realizations about himself. "I was born with a delusion in my soul that I've fought a rearguard battle with my entire life," he writes. "Though I'm very much my mother's boy, it has pained me to admit the blood of Santini rushes hard and fast in my bloodstream. My mother gave me a poet's sensibility; my father's DNA assured me that I was always ready for a fight, and that I could ride into any fray as a field-tested lord of battle." Conroy lovingly describes his mother, whom he admits he idealized in The Great Santini and corrects for this book. Although his father's fearsome persona never really changed, Conroy learned to forgive and even sympathize with his father, who would attend book signings with his son and good-naturedly satirize his own terrifying image. Less droll is the story of Conroy's younger brother, Tom, who flung himself off a building in a suicidal fit of schizophrenia, and Conroy's combative relationship with his sister, the poet Carol Conroy. It's an emotionally difficult journey that should lend fans of Conroy's fiction an insightful back story to his richly imagined characters. The moving true story of an unforgivable father and his unlikely redemption.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385530859
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/29/2013
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 20,478
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Pat Conroy
Pat Conroy is the author of ten previous books: The Boo, The Water Is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, My Losing Season, The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life, South of Broad, and My Reading Life. He lives in Beaufort, South Carolina.
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    1. Also Known As:
      Donald Patrick Conroy (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      San Francisco and South Carolina
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 26, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A.,The Citadel, 1967

Read an Excerpt

The Death of Santini

The Story of a Father and His Son


By Pat Conroy

Random House LLC

Copyright © 2013 Pat Conroy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-385-34352-7


CHAPTER 1

The Promise


On June 4, 1963, I walked off the graduation stage of Beaufort High School without a single clue about where I was attending college next year or if I'd be attending one at all. My parents had driven me mad over this subject and neither would discuss it with me further. I had planned to get a job at the tomato-packing shed on St. Helena Island to earn some money if my parents somehow managed to enroll me in a college. But my father received orders to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, for the following year. I didn't want to leave Beaufort, and I sure as hell didn't want to move to Nebraska, a place where I didn't know another human being. I wanted to go to college.

My father had the car packed and ready when I turned my graduation robe in to my teacher Dutchen Hardin, hugged my other favorite Beaufort High teachers and classmates, then fled in tears toward my life in Nebraska. Before I entered the car, I composed myself, dried my eyes, and got in the shotgun seat. The motor was running and Dad threw me a map, saying, "You're the navigator, pal. Any mistakes and I whack you." Before a single graduation party had begun, we were already crossing the Savannah River into Georgia. Our journey took us on back roads and through scores of towns that we hurtled by in their sleep. It was the age before interstate highways were common, so most of our trip would take us through the rural South and the farmlands of the Midwest. To my shock, Dad planned to make it a straight-through shot to Chicago, pausing only for pit stops and gas.

"Dad, you sure you want to do this?" I asked.

"Hey, jocko, you a detective?"

"That's a lot of driving. It might be too much for you."

"That's why you're on guard duty, pal," he said. "I start nodding off, you rap me on the shoulder to keep me awake."

During the twenty-four-hour drive, my father fell asleep three times, and I knocked his right shoulder, hard, three delicious times. Once in Indiana, he had failed to follow the curve of the highway and drove the station wagon over a cow guard and into a field heavily populated with Black Angus cattle. When I punched his shoulder, he woke suddenly, dodging fifty cows on his way back to the highway.

"You'd get a court-martial for that one, navigator," he said.

"I kept all of us alive, Dad. This is getting dangerous."

We arrived at Uncle Willie's house on Hamlin Drive, where my mother had flown to the day before with her two youngest sons. Willie lived in a Polish neighborhood that looked like an elaborate card trick to me. The houses going up and down the street from Willie's were exact duplicates of one another as far as the eye could see. Variation was forbidden, and this neighborhood stretched for miles in all directions. You could sleepwalk out of Willie's house at night and find yourself lost as you tried to find your way back through a labyrinth that seemed to run on forever. It was an ugly house, as charmless as a Rubik's cube.

The Conroy kids were sent to the basement, where Uncle Willie had put pillows on the carpet and mattresses all around so we could camp out during our two weeks there. It turned out to be a deadly long visit, with tension breaking out unintentionally between my mother and grandmother, who lived nearby. Grandma Conroy was a harsh-voiced, unstylish woman who could have played a walk-on shrew in some of Shakespeare's lesser comedies. I never saw her wear makeup or try to prettify herself, and her dresses all looked like she had bought them from castaway bins at the Salvation Army. To her Southern grandchildren, she seemed to be yelling at us all the time.

"Don't do that. Get out of the way. Go back to the basement," she would say to us. It became a joke to my brothers and sisters that Grandpa and Grandma Conroy had no idea what our names were and little curiosity in remedying this lack of knowledge. My father and his brothers played pinochle every day, then went out to catch a Cubs or White Sox game in the evening. My mother was left behind with her seven kids. Since she was terrified of getting lost in Chicago traffic, she could not use the car. When she asked my father to take her and the kids to the art museum, he refused. A fearsome argument broke out and I could feel Mom's fury rising as each day passed. Dad's neglect of Mom and her kids and his abandonment of his family by night and day were not sitting well with our pretty mother. The claustrophobia alive in that sad household was turning into a troubled, living thing.

It was Uncle Willie who set off the fuse. I had always liked my uncle Willie, because he was a schoolteacher and had no problem being around kids. He was the smallest of his brothers by far and looked like half a Conroy man as he stood in the middle of his platoon of tall brothers. His nose had been broken so many times in street fights that it gave him the appearance of a harmless bulldog. He was a droll man with a great sense of humor and we'd become golfing buddies on his visits to Beaufort. But Willie had a deep fear of my father that I could sense whenever Dad turned prickly. In his own house, Willie ignored my presence and barely spoke to me. When I offered to go golfing with him, he shrugged his shoulders and said he'd think about it. Three days later he took Dad golfing with some high school buddies of my father's, but didn't ask me to come. I never thought the same about Uncle Willie again.

But Willie did ask the combustible question that I think helped to get me into college. I was lingering after dinner as my grandfather and uncle were arguing about Chicago politics. Carol Ann had already joined the kids watching television in what she called "Dante's Inferno" in the basement. There was much talk about Mayor Richard Daley and the efficiency of his machine. My grandfather was a block captain for Mayor Daley and told a story of a man on his block who balked about promising to vote for the mayor in the next election. "He called Mayor Daley a corrupt Irish son of a bitch," my grandfather said, laughing at the memory. Grandpa Conroy reported it to the mayor's people and the man received no garbage pickup for three straight weeks. After his neighbors complained about the stench of his garbage overflow, the poor man appeared on the doorstep to beg for my grandfather's intercession with the mayor. He even added a small contribution of twenty-five dollars for the mayor's reelection campaign. His garbage was collected the following day, compliments of Mayor Daley.

"What a great story, Grandpa," I said. "Dad used to tell us about the great Daley machine, but I never knew how it worked."

"Are you interested in politics, Pat?" my grandfather asked. I was grateful he knew my name.

"Yes, sir, I sure am. I'm interested in everything," I replied.

Uncle Willie asked the question that ignited my parents' unspoken rage at each other yet again. "Where are you going to college, Pat?"

"That's a really good question, Willie. Where is Pat going to college next year?" Mom said in a voice that was pure acid.

"Shut up, Willie," my father growled. "It's none of your beeswax."

"None of my beeswax?" Willie echoed, not interpreting the signal flares of war lighting up my father's eyes. "Hell, college starts in two months' time, Don. If he's not enrolled in college now, he's not going."

"Drop it, Willie," my father warned again, but now my mother was in the middle of it.

"Pat hasn't even applied to college because the great wise one over there hasn't allowed him to do so," she said.

"Is your kid a dope, Don?" Willie said, studying me for signs of imbecility. "You can still get him into trade school."

"Shut your yap, Willie, or I'll shut it for you," Dad said.

"Shut my yap about what, Don?" Willie yelled back. "I teach school for a living. Pat should've been applying to colleges last fall. Our parents didn't have shit, and they sent all nine of their kids to college. Don't those Southern idiots have college counselors in their shitty schools?"

"We've got college counselors, Uncle Willie," I said.

"You shut the fuck up and get downstairs with the kids where you belong, asshole," Dad said to me.

"Let me know how the college search goes, Mom," I said.

"I told you to shut up," Dad said, then slapped me as I walked by.

"I will, Pat. That's a promise," Mom said. Dad slapped her in her face as my grandfather watched in wordless silence.

That night a fight between my parents rocked through the whole house. Five of us kids were watching TV in the basement when the screaming commenced. I went over and turned the TV off, then turned the lights out and said, "If Dad comes down here, pretend you're asleep. Otherwise, he'll start hitting."

The shouting ended thirty minutes after it began; then the door opened at the top of the stairs and Dad turned on the lights and came halfway down the stairs. When he satisfied himself that we were all asleep, he shut the door noiselessly, so as not to wake us up. The next day, we left Chicago for Iowa as the end of my boyhood moved insanely on.

Dad drove his family to the blue-collar town of Clinton, Iowa, where another of his brothers, Fr. Jim Conroy, served as chaplain in the local Catholic hospital. Uncle Jim was a gregarious pink-faced man who grew temperamental when he was tired and was rumored to pick fights with every bishop he served under during his embattled career as a priest. He became famous for saying the fastest mass in the Midwest, and Catholics flocked to his services when he took over Holy Family parish in Davenport at the end of his career. In my lifetime of listening to lusterless sermons by Catholic priests, I knew Uncle Jim was famous for being the worst public speaker in the Iowa diocese. I never trusted him after he'd slapped me around for a nightmarish six weeks when I went on a fishing trip with him to Minnesota, and I made sure that none of my brothers went anywhere near him.

But I rode with Uncle Jim from his hospital to his home on the Mississippi River that would be the Conroy family home until our quarters were ready for us to move into at Offutt Air Force Base. Uncle Jim confessed to me that his brother Willie had called and begged him to get those seven kids out of his house.

"You guys really got on Grandpa and Grandma Conroy's nerves," Father Jim said. "They were driving Willie crazy complaining about the mess you were making."

Uncle Jim drove across the Mississippi and turned north on a country road that paralleled the river, carrying us through beautiful Illinois farm country. We rode for twenty miles before he turned off to a dirt road, passed several farms, then pulled into the driveway of an insubstantial shack that looked both isolated and forlorn. The house sat on a hill above a tributary of the great river completely clogged with lily pads. You could fish all day and not get your hook wet.

When my mother toured the house, she erupted into another argument with Dad. "This is just great, Don. You're going to leave your wife and seven kids in this run-down dump with three beds, one toilet, no air-conditioning, no car, no stove, in the middle of goddamn nowhere. Real good thinking, Don. Great planning," she said, unhinged and wrathful. "There is no TV set, no radio, not a toy for the little kids to play with, not a bottle of milk or a loaf of bread or a jar of peanut butter. Jim, what were you thinking, having us here?"

"Not much, Peggy," Uncle Jim said. "I've never had a family. I just didn't think it through."

Dad said, "Okay, kids. Attention to orders. Start getting this place polished up. There'll be a formal inspection at fifteen hundred hours."

Of all the disconsolate summers the Conroy family spent following our Marine from base to base, everyone agrees that our summer on the Mississippi River was the most soul-killing of all. We sweltered in a summer heat that was brutal, and the house was so small and inadequate for our tribe that we stumbled over one another and got in each other's way from morning till night. In the mornings, we woke with nothing to do, and went to sleep because there was nothing to do at night, either.

Uncle Jim was solicitous and as helpful as he could be and provided our only lifeline to civilization and to groceries. Several times a week he would take us all for a swim at a public lake in a nearby town. It was the summer I thought my mother's mental health began to deteriorate, and I think my sister Carol Ann suffered a mental breakdown caused by that ceaseless drumbeat of days. Carol Ann would turn her face to the wall and weep piteously all day long. Mom appeared sick and exhausted and slept long periods during the day, ignoring the many needs of my younger siblings. The days were interminable and Mom grew more weakened and distressed than I had ever seen her. I asked what was wrong and how I could help.

"Everything!" she would scream. "Everything. Take your pick. Make my kids disappear. Make Don vanish into thin air. Leave me alone."


In July I got a brief respite when I took a Trailways bus on a two-day trip to Columbia, South Carolina, to play in the North-South all-star game. I'd not touched a basketball since February, was out of shape, and played a lackluster game when I needed to have a superlative one. After the game, Coach Hank Witt, an assistant football coach at The Citadel, the military college of South Carolina, came up to tell me that I had just become part of The Citadel family, and he wished to welcome me. Coach Witt handed me a Citadel sweatshirt and I delivered him a full, sweaty body hug that he extricated himself from with some difficulty. In my enthusiasm, I was practically jumping out of my socks. By then, I'd given up hope of going to any college that fall and had thought about entering the Marine Corps as a recruit at Parris Island because all other avenues had been closed off to me. My father never told me nor my mother that he had filled out an application for me to attend The Citadel. I danced my way back into the locker room below the university field house and practically did a soft-shoe as I soaped myself down in the shower. In my mind I'd struggled over the final obstacles, and there were scores of books and hundreds of papers written into my future. Because I'd been accepted at The Citadel, I could feel the launching of all the books inside me like artillery placements I'd camouflaged in the hills. The possibilities seemed limitless as I dressed in the afterglow of that message. In my imagination, getting a college degree was as lucky as a miner stumbling across the Comstock Lode, except that it could never be taken away from me or given to someone else. I could walk down the streets for the rest of my life, hearing people say, "That boy went to college." And then it dawned on me that the military college of South Carolina did not preen about being a crucible for novelists or poets. Hell, I thought in both bravado and innocence, I'll make it safe for both.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Death of Santini by Pat Conroy. Copyright © 2013 Pat Conroy. Excerpted by permission of Random House LLC, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Reading Group Guide

My dear friends and fellow lovers of Santini,

You have written so many letters of condolence since my father died that I’ve been overwhelmed at the task of answering them. But know this: All of them meant something, all of them moved me deeply, all were appreciated, and all were read. Don Conroy was larger than life and there was never a room he entered that he left without making his mark. At some point in his life, he passed from being merely memorable to being legendary.

In the thirty-three years he was in the Marine Corps, Colonel Conroy concentrated on the task of defending his country, and he did so exceedingly well. In the next twenty-four years left to him, he put all his efforts into the art of being a terrific father, a loving uncle, a brother of great substance, a beloved grandfather, and a friend to thousands. Out of uniform, the Colonel let his genius for humor flourish. Always in motion he made his rounds in Atlanta each day and no one besides himself knew how many stops he put in during a given day. He was like a bee going from flower to flower, pollinating his world with his generous gift for friendship.

Don Conroy was a man’s man, a soldier’s soldier, a Marine’s Marine. There was nothing soft or teddy-bearish about him. His simplicity was extraordinary. He died without ever owning a credit card, never took out a loan in his life, and almost all the furniture in his apartment was rented. I think he loved his family with his body and soul, yet no one ever lived who was less articulate in expressing that love. On the day the doctor told him that there was nothing more to be done for him, my father told me, “Don’t worry about it. I’ve had a great life. No one’s had a life like me. Everyone should be so lucky.”

Don Conroy died with exemplary courage, as one would expect.

He never complained about pain or whimpered or cried out. His death was stoical and quiet. He never quit fighting, never surrendered, and never gave up. He died like a king. He died like The Great Santini.

I thank you with all my heart.

Pat Conroy

1. Certain members of the Conroy clan viewed Pat’s writings as a betrayal of the family, exposing their dirty laundry to the public and tarnishing their reputation. Do you agree? How would you react if someone close to you novelized your life?

2. How do you think the real-life Conroys compare to their fictional counterparts in the Meecham family?

3. Conroy describes the lessons about love that he learned from his parents’ marriage in startlingly vivid terms, writing: “[Love] was a country bristling with fishhooks hung at eye level, man-traps, and poisoned baits. It could hurl toward you at breakneck speed or let you dangle over a web spun by a brown recluse spider” (pages 2–3). How do you evaluate this assessment of love and marriage? Do you think Conroy’s attitude shifts at all throughout the book? How did the example of his parents’ relationship influence his own marriages?

4. Conroy writes of his “high contempt” for literary critics, claiming that “no writer has suffered over morning coffee because of the savagery of my review of his or her latest book, and no one ever will” (page 46). How do you reconcile this attitude toward literary critics with the suffering his writing caused the members of his family? Do the two positions contradict each other, or are they compatible? Why?

5. In the Introduction to this book, Conroy claims that other writers often consider autobiographical fiction to be a low form of literature. What do you think of this claim?

6. Conroy writes “I don’t believe in happy families,” going on to explain that “A family is too frail a vessel to contain the risks of all the warring impulses expressed when such a group meets on common ground” (page 144). Do you agree with this claim? Is there such a thing as a happy family?

7. Conroy describes his mother as playing the part of Scarlett O’Hara throughout her life. What part does Conroy play? Do we all play a role different from who we really are? If so, what part do you play?

8. Conroy sometimes describes his parents and childhood in mythic terms, comparing his father to Thor and to Ares, the Greek god of war. Is it human nature to make myths of our childhoods and deify our parents? What myths exist in your family lore?

9. The Death of Santini explores the impact of Conroy’s Southern and Irish heritage on his upbringing. Discuss the importance of family heritage and ancestry in Conroy’s life and in your own.

10. Conroy eloquently writes that “Your birthplace is your destiny” (page 100). What do you think of this statement?

11. The Conroy children sometimes have very divergent perspectives on their shared childhood memories. What do you think of this phenomenon? Can you think of similar instances in your own life? Is it possible to avoid editorializing memories?

12. In a much-discussed scene from The Great Santini, Bull Meecham’s son chases his father around the Beauford green yelling “I love you!” Why do you think Bull/Dan runs away from this onslaught of affection?

13. Peg stuck with her marriage to Dan through some terrible times, yet the marriage could not survive the publication of The Great Santini. Why do you think that is?

14. In what ways did the filming of The Great Santini change Pat’s relationship with his father?

15. Conroy experiences the rare pleasure of watching his novel come to life on the silver screen. Who would play you in the movie of your life?

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 81 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 29, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Pat Conroy is, plain and simple, a brilliant author. The Great S

    Pat Conroy is, plain and simple, a brilliant author. The Great Santini is one of my favorite films and it is sheer delight to get to known the man who influenced this story. Conroy writes with honesty that jumps off the page. I loved this book and highly recommend it.

    17 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 5, 2013

    Pat Conroy's new memoir of life with his outstandingly awful par

    Pat Conroy's new memoir of life with his outstandingly awful parents and often barely sane siblings is so brave and beautiful that it has left me nearly breathless. This work is to my mind so superior to The Great Santini that I am astounded. Each sentence is a specially crafted tribute to truth. Who says genius fades? In Pat Conroy's case, his art has just become clearer, sharper and bolder. Thank you, Pat Conroy. If you love The Great Santini, you  will not be able to stop reading this. If you loved South of Broad, you will wonder at this man's ability to find the kindness that gives that work life. 

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    I have read everyone of Pat Conroy's books and loved all of them. The Death of Santini was touching, laugh out loud funny at times, honest.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 23, 2013

    Brilliant

    Pat Conroy is one of the most brilliant writers America has ever produced. This book is a raw, insightful look at his family and the final days of the Great Santini. Highly recommend.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2013

    WOW!!! Highly recommended!!

    The reader gets to really know Pat and his whole family and history. Every family has its problems and faults, as the author notes, and this book shares his family's best and hardest times. I hardly could pause. There are points I and others will disagree on. For example, I'd love to see him write a follow up book on how many liberal educational policies have harmed current minority children, especially in reading education. But even with disagreement in his political "idols" this book was "great" on so many levels. He revisited many of the themes from his former books with more information and insight. However, this book is interesting even if you have not read his other novels. This will make you want to read or reread them again. Highly recommended. I'd also like to recommend a "new" author on the Nook - William Jarvis. His novel, based on true events during World War II, "The Partisan" is also excellent and is also highly recommended. Both deserve A+++++

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2013

    Great book

    This is a really funny and sad story. His reflections on his family made me laugh out loud, and made me cry. His phrasing is unlike any other author, I would recognise his work without his name on the cover. No one writes quite like him.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2013

    Highest form of navel contemplation

    I am not a big fan of this "my troubles are so much greater than your troubles" genre. About halfway through I grew very tired of the pity party. Yes, poor Pat despite your millions, you are just a poor misunderstood boy. A boy who is serially unfaithful to his wives, sucks apacifier through numerous nervous breakdowns, and wants to communicate this crap to me. Please, curl up in your wet little diaper and wipe your snotty little nose. We all have problems. Being rich and famous does not make yours more interesting. Please tell a story next time and ditch the attempts to explain yourself. I for one, am not buying it.

    3 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    Loved it

    A perfect tribute to the Great Santini.very real and honest in tbe complications of the aftermath of dysfunction and great love.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2013

    Not his best book

    I like Pat Conroy's writing, but I think he "overwrote" in this book. I found the description of his mother's illness especially unpleasant; I am not one who enjoys the most graphic details of an illness. I did finish this book and I don't finish every book I start and I will continue to read Mr. Conroy's books but I do not recommend this one except to avid fans of the author.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2013

    This is a "tell it like it is" story of the life of Pa

    This is a "tell it like it is" story of the life of Pat Conroy's family, specifically involving his father--"THE Great Santini".  I believe Conroy is one of the very best of American writers.  This story comes from his memories of his life with his family----memories that are admittedly different for each Conroy family member.  After years of best sellers with fictitious names telling family stories, this gets to the heart of this family with real names and memories.  




    I have a special interest in Pat Conroy's writings because my husband was also a '67 Citadel graduate, and one of Boo's Boys (Conroy's first book).  Conroy also spoke about his family at a CASA ( Court Appointed Special Advocate--working with abused and neglected children) conference that I attended in Charleston, SC when I was a CASA.  Name dropping??-- Pat Conroy wouldn't know me if he ran into me on the street.  But, these things have added another level of enjoyment to books that needed nothing additional to become favorites in my library!!




    Pat is the eldest of seven children born to a Chicago Irish Catholic highly decorated Marine pilot, and a beautiful daughter of a snake handling religious fanatic from the back woods country and a mother who deserted her four young children to defend for themselves.  Pat's young life saw him going from place to place where ever his father was stationed at the time.  Violence and love centered a difficult and volition family life, resulting in five of the seven kids eventually trying to commit suicide, with the youngest son eventually succeeding. 




    But the real beauty of this ranting family life, is the continual love-hate relationship between everyone in the family.  After The Great Santini was published, Pat was demonized by most of his family, but his father---"THE Great Santini"---took perverse pleasure in referring to himself by that name for the rest of his life.  The movie version somehow brought family members back together again in a mixing bowl of emotions.  This book is Pat's version of a famous line from his book, The Prince Of Tides: " in families there are no crimes beyond forgiveness."




    Though memories can be different for members of a family who lived through the same events, the raw emotions, and spectacularly open and dramatic telling of this story by Pat Conroy, makes this a timeless story of many families where violence harms and divides families, children and marriages take a beating figuratively and literally, and love and forgiveness manages to inch their way into people's hearts.  Though this could have been a morbid tale if told be a different author, Pat Conroy brings this story into the realm of timeless story telling because of the explosive personality of someone who can get right to the heart of a classic tale!  Wonderfully told and expertly written!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2014

    Few writers could tell their own story as candidly as Pat Conroy

    Few writers could tell their own story as candidly as Pat Conroy tells his in The Death of Santini. Part of me wishes I hadn't read this book. It was an emotional roller coaster ride for me. But then, most of his fiction affected me the same way. Discovering that all those books I've read by him were based on his experiences had me reliving those reading experiences. That made it a slow read. I could only digest so much at one sitting. I found Pat Conroy, the man, to be brave, flawed, passionate and probably more like The Great Santini than he realized before this introspection. No one could come away doubting that abusive parents affect the entire lives of their children. You don't "outgrow" the damage. Conroy transcends it, mostly successfully. I recommend this book, bur it is not for the feint of heart.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2013

    A "Must Read" for Pat Conroy fans

    Pat Conroy doesn't dissapoint with The Death of Santini. Even someone that has never read any of his books will enjoy this one.
    Long Live Pat Conroy!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2013

    Conroy's art of storytelling has never been better!

    Conroy's art of storytelling has never been better!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2013

    Good read.

    It is an okay book but not Pat Conroy's best. He belabors some parts and skips over parts I wished he had expounded upon.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2013

    Another great one by Conroy.

    I loved the book! Pat writes so beautifully and knows how to tell a story. A great example of forgiveness. Bless his heart!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2013

    Great read Conroy does it again

    A great story of one of the most dysfunctional families in the world. Glad to see there was some reconciliation before Don Conroy's death.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 10, 2013

    Another great from one of the greatest

    I am sure some people will rate this book as self indulgent. I saw it, however, as a literary tribute to Conroy's pain. He didn't sugarcoat how he felt about his somewhat dysfunctional family. It took courage to write it the way he did and helped me to understand the power our family has over us. I only hope his future works will possess the same power given that the author says this is the last book he will write based on the pain of his upbringing. Conroy's writing is so eloquent it is a true treat to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2015

    True stories of dysfuntional families are hard to read

    But the damage done cannotbe forgiven while there is memory to constantly keep the wounds open one of the problems of group therapy that the horrows are repeated and repeated and ithers added to the burden there are some whose sanity depends on repression of memory and coping within a harmless functioning life style the author has used his writing to function but his siblings could not find that way . To say all is forgiven and the father repented in love of his family is part of his inability to accept the terrible reality of both his parents abuse and there was no help or rescue from church school medical or the army family.during all that time including any relatives on both sides a terrible story

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2014

    Horrible!

    I usually like Conroy's novels, but this one is just an excuse to whine and is a rude attack on his siblings. Don't waste your time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2014

    Monatonous detail

    Initially interesting but became quicky boreing with repetitive wearesome emotional family strife.

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