Reading Matters

Conroys discuss their father

You gotta love Pat Conroy. His blistering honesty about his dad, the violent Great Santini of the bestselling novel of the same name. Don Conroy softened later in life, says Conroy, and became a good father and grandfather. But none of Conroy’s siblings has forgotten the man who repeatedly socked his wife and belted the kids.

Now here’s a new book, “Conversations with the Conroys: Interviews with Pat Conroy and His Family,” edited by Walter Edgar with an afterword by poet Nikky Finney (USC Press, $19.95) that allows us other views of the parents. Four of the six siblings weigh in – youngest son Tom committed suicide and sister Carol Ann is estranged.

If you ever thought Conroy was exaggerating about his Marine Corps father, forget it. According to Tim Conroy, their father was actually much meaner than Conroy portrayed him in the novel. Kathy Conroy agrees: “I would have loved to have had the father in that book, but that’s not who we had.”

Forgiveness came after Tom Conroy’s funeral. Conroy says his father wept through the entire service, wailing, “My baby boy, I lost my baby.” Afterwards, Conroy says, the siblings met together. Conroy says they figured if he loved Tom, he must’ve loved all of them. So they said, “Let’s give it up. Let’s let it go, and we can get through this as a family for the rest of our lives.”

A must-read for Conroy fans.