I was sad to learn this week of author Pat Conroy’s passing. As a reader, I discovered Conroy in the 1970s with The Water is Wide, but it really was with The Great Santini and The Lords of Discipline that I began to understand that the reason I loved Pat Conroy’s books so much was that I was able to bring my story to his. I understood his pain and anguish, his difficult family relationships and torn devotions. I recognized myself in his stories and I felt less alone, less isolated. And it was in that understanding that helped free me to explore my own emotions, my own story in the form of fiction. I loved his beautiful use of language and was captivated by his flawed characters. I knew them all, had lived with some of them, and was a few of them myself. Very simply, I was inspired to write because of the emotional scope and depth of Pat Conroy’s books. There were no boundaries, no reasons to restrain the darkest, deepest feelings. If it was honest, it belonged on the page. I will read his books over and over again, and will miss knowing that his work is complete, that there are no more stories from this master of voice. I can think no higher complement to a writer.
“I’ve never had anyone’s approval, so I’ve learned to live without it.”
-- Pat Conroy, The Great Santini