Pat Conroy, the best-selling author who gave us such treasures as The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, is dead, according to a report from CNN. Conroy was 70-years-old and had been battling pancreatic cancer. Pat had just made his illness public in February. In the statement in which Conroy informed us of his illness, he also declared that he owed us a novel and that he intended to deliver it. Pat’s publisher reported that he died at his home in Beaufort, South Carolina, surrounded by friends and family.
Regarding his death, Pat Conroy’s wife, novelist Cassandra King Conroy, said, “The water is wide and he has now passed over.” South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley tweeted her condolences.
South Carolina lost a beloved son tonight. Pat Conroy will be missed. We can find comfort knowing his words and love for SC will live on.— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) March 5, 2016
Although most know Pat Conroy for his two novels that became Oscar-nominated films, Pat wrote a total of 11 novels. He wrote about his own pain in a way that communicated empathy and with an openness and honesty that allowed the reader to relate Conroy’s experience to their own. Pat’s wife referred to one of them, The Water Is Wide, in her statement about his death. It is based on Conroy’s personal experiences and is described by Amazon as follows.
“The island is nearly deserted, haunting, beautiful. Across a slip of ocean lies South Carolina. But for the handful of families on Yamacraw island, America is a world away. For years the people here lived proudly from the sea, but now its waters are not safe. Waste from industry threatens their very existence–unless, somehow, they can learn a new life. But they will learn nothing without someone to teach them, and their school has no teacher.”
Pat Conroy wrote from his own painful childhood experiences as well. On his website, Conroy said this about his writing, specifically The Great Santini.
“When I was thirty years old, my novel The Great Santini was published, and there were many things in that book I was afraid to write or feared that no one would believe. But this year I turned sixty-five, the official starting date of old age and the beginning count down to my inevitable death. I’ve come to realize that I still carry the bruised freight of that childhood every day. I can’t run away, hide, or pretend it never happened. I wear it on my back like the carapace of a tortoise, except my shell burdens and does not protect. It weighs me down and fills me with dread… I’ve got to try and make sense of it one last time, a final circling of the block, a reckoning, another dive into the caves of the coral reef where the morays wait in ambush, one more night flight into the immortal darkness to study that house of pain one final time. Then I’ll be finished with you, Mom and Dad. I’ll leave you in peace and not bother you again. And I’ll pray that your stormy spirits find peace in the house of the Lord. But I must examine the wreckage one last time.”
Pat Conroy told NPR in an interview that he wrote because it was simply essential for him. Pat told Tom Vitale that he wrote about his family and that it was a sort of journey through his struggles, that once it’s on paper he has “named the demon.”
Other works by Pat Conroy include Boo, The Lord of Discipline, and Beach Music. His books have sold a total of over 20 million copies worldwide. In addition to Cassandra, his wife of almost 17 years, Pat Conroy is survived by two daughters from a previous marriage, two sisters, three brothers, and seven grandchildren.
[Photo by Jeffrey Vock/Getty Images]