The Death of Santini, The Story of a Father and His Son by Pat Conroy; 2013; $28.95; 338 pages; 978-0-385-53090-3; bound galley purchased on eBay; 10/10-10/12
Why did I pick this up? Because I have read everything else that Pat Conroy has written and I was particularly interested in this book since it detailed the relationship between a military father and his family.
What is the story? Pat Conroy has fictionalized his and his family’s lives in many of his books, Prince of Tides, Beach Music and The Great Santini among others. The Great Santini detailed the life of a Marine fighter pilot and his family. The phrases that stick with me the most from The Great Santini which were used to describe Bull Meacham, The Great Santini, are “he was a warrior with out a war” and “he had succumbed to the mythology of the military”. Bull was a man who had no idea had to express love to his family. Bull was closely modeled on Donald Conroy, Pat’s father. In his previous memoir, My Losing Season, Pat revealed that he toned his father down for the book. At the premiere of the movie The Great Santini, one of Pat’s brother said that the portrayal of Santini by Robert Duvall was like Bambi compared to their father. The Death of Santini, contains family history of the Conroys and traces the changes that Donald Conroy and the rest of the family went through in the time between the release of the book and the deaths of the Conroy parents.
Did I like it? Yes, Pat Conroy has the rare ability to fill the canvas of my mind with his words and make things come alive. I laughed and I cried. I was moved and I was horrified. If there was one author I could meet and talk with, Pat Conroy is the one. I have gone along with him through the many moves of a military brat, I have been in the company of men who have succumbed to the mythology of the military. Men who believe that since the military has given them the power to order people around that that same power extends to their family. Men who believe that since their charges have to do things certain ways that their families do also.
What is with the title of the review? After the publication of the book, many members of Pat Conroys extended family wouldn’t even talk to him. His biggest defender became his father and his father changed after the publication of the book. Change was inevitable but who knew which way his father would move closer or withdraw.