cover image The Death of Santini

The Death of Santini

Pat Conroy. Doubleday/Talese, $28.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-385-53090-3

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.)