Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Beach Music" by Pat Conroy

Beach Music
by Pat Conroy
701 pages (nook edition)

Short Version: Jack McCall moved his life to Rome to escape the hurt of his wife's suicide. When his mother becomes ill he must return to his Southern roots and face his past and all that comes with it.

Why I Read It: A friend of mine recommended this book and insisted I finally read it since I always insist she read some of my favorite books.

The Book: From Goodreads
PAT CONROY, America’s preeminent storyteller, delivers a sweeping novel of lyric intensity and searing truth–the story of Jack McCall, an American expatriate in Rome, scarred by tragedy and betrayal. His desperate desire to find peace after his wife’s suicide draws him into a painful, intimate search for the one haunting secret in his family’s past that can heal his anguished heart.

Spanning three generations and two continents, from the contemporary ruins of the American South to the ancient ruins of Rome, from the unutterable horrors of the Holocaust to the lingering trauma of Vietnam, Beach Music sings with life’s pain and glory. It is another masterpiece in PAT CONROY’S legendary list of beloved novels.

My Thoughts: Picking up this book I knew it was a friend of mine's favorite and it involved historical fiction from the Holocaust to the Vietnam War. When I saw it was 700 hundred pages I was a little surprised, but not deterred. And when it began with the telling of Jack's wife, Shyla, committing suicide I had no idea how this would be historical fiction, but I kept going. This book turned out to be wonderful. Although, I must say I did not fully think "wonderful" until the very end. Throughout most of my reading I thought it was good.
As I sit here writing this review I keep typing and deleting. The book was long with so many back stories that I am not sure how to go about this review. I do not want to get so into detail that I write a review as long as the book. So I think I will tell you just what I liked and disliked and leave it at that.

Likes- I loved all the back stories told. Each character had a past that shaped who they were. These stories were heartbreaking yet written beautifully. Pat Conroy can write some amazing descriptions (so amazing I was brought to tears a couple times and I never cry reading books). These stories are where the historical fiction came in. There were Holocaust stories from numerous characters who had eventually found their way to the South and into Jack McCall's life. The Vietnam War was a part of this book but not in a first person experience. It was more something going on in the background that caused turmoil in the lives of the characters. The book taking place in the South also shaped these characters. It was a part of their life they could not escape no matter how far they went (Rome, New York, Hollywood). I enjoyed reading about their Southern roots and lifestyles. Kind of makes me wish I lived there instead of the Midwest. I adored Jack's daughter Leah. She was just an amazing 8 year old. So smart and emotionally intelligent. I really enjoyed her relationship with her dad. Jack treated her with respect like an adult, not just a child. He was open and honest with her, even though things may have been upsetting or hurtful to a child.

Dislikes: I don't know that I would call anything in this book a dislike, more just annoyances. Jack's attitude in the beginning drove me nuts. I understand his hurt and his reason for not wanting to be around his wife's family after she committed suicide. However, moving half way around the world and even cutting ties with your own family and friends is a bit much. There was a perfect quote describing Jack that I highlighted with my Nook, only to find out that the Nook will not show your highlights and notes. You must flip page by page to find them. This is a long book and I do not want to flip hundreds of pages to find it. If I do eventually see it I will edit this review.  Anyways back on topic here...Although I enjoyed reading all the back stories I really had no idea where this book was going. I knew Jack was trying to explain the meaning of Shyla's death and confront some issues with past friendships, but I did not know how all the stories had to do with that. There was not always a logical order to the stories. Sometimes they would jump from one place to another. However, everything came together in a beautiful ending. All loose ends where tied in the perfect timing. No abrupt endings or wondering what would happen next. I have to say this might be one of the best endings I have read in awhile. The last 150-200 pages of this book were simply amazing.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good book to get into that involves history, Southern charm, family, friendships, love, loss, and a beautiful ending.

4.5/5 Stars

#3 in 2012 Ebook Challenge
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#1 in Wishlist Challenge
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