Told through the point of view of Tom Wingo, The Prince of Tides is a classic study of a Southern family, the intensity of characters caught up in family conflicts and guilt, and the far-reaching psychological effects visited upon children from dysfunctional relationships in their formative years.
The novel takes place in Manhattan, where Tom Wingo has been summoned to help his comatose twin sister, Savannah, recover from yet another suicide attempt. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Susan Lowenstein, believes Tom can help Savannah by pulling up events from their past and finally divulging secrets from one fateful, secret day Savannah could not fully confront in past psychiatric sessions.
Tom has been affected by the same past events as his sister, having lost his job as a high school teacher and coach after having a nervous breakdown of his own.
The events of the novel seesaw back and forth from present-day Manhattan to the childhood and adolescent days of Tom, Savannah and their older brother Luke as they attempt to live as normal a life as possible, despite the discord between their father, Henry Wingo, and mother, Lila. The family grew up in isolated Melrose Island, off Charleston, South Carolina, where Tom tried one business deal after another while eking out a living as a shrimper.
Desiring a higher-class social life, Lila's continual harangue and infliction of guilt upon everyone within hearing distance also laid down psychological scars within her children.
The novel takes listeners through a heart-breaking Southern tale as Tom attempts to save the life of his sister, and ends up saving his own life as well as that of Dr. Lowenstein in the process.
American writer Pat Conroy was born in 1945 in Atlanta, Georgia and currently Conroy resides in Fripp Island, South Carolina. The first of seven children born to a career military officer father and a mother from Alabama, Conroy credits his family upbringing with much of the background for his novels.
Conroy attended The Citadel Military Academy in Charleston at his father's insistence. He later taught English in Beaufort, South Carolina and continued to work his teaching experiences into his novels.
Throughout his career, Conroy's life figures into his partly autobiographical novels. His love of the English language is apparent to any fan of Conroy, many of whom love it just as much as he does.
"Even the greatest authors aren't consistently great. Maybe that's why I write novellas. I quit before I get to the sagging middle. I consider Pat Conroy a great writer, but his strength is in narration and description, not dialogue. To me, all the characters sound alike...equally snarky. That said, I really enjoyed this book, particularly the sections of the protagonist growing up in the Holy City (did you know that's Charleston's moniker?), and the search for Trevor in San Francisco. Conroy's prose is lyrical when he tells the story of the porpoise near the end of the book, and I must say that there were more than a few surprises that I hadn't seen coming. I highly recommend South of Broad if you're planning a trip to Charleston or have recently returned. I share Conroy's love affair with this spectacular town."
Susan (4 out of 5 stars)