Pat Conroy’s ‘My Reading Life’, the depth of compassion for his Mother


gorgeous southern sunset

a perfect image for his lifelong love of reading

My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy

ISBN:  978-0-385-53357-7

Chapter One: The Lily

Pat Conroy is the writer who led me to southern writing, to the gorgeous prose and humid, stoic, gut wrenching, truth revealing, emotional storytelling of the South.  I just picked up ‘My Reading Life’ at local indie bookseller Book Passage and it’s cover, rich sunset colors with the stark white of pages morphing into seagulls, gave me a good inkling this would be a fantastic book by a writer about reading.

One chapter in and I’m enraptured unexpectedly because he humbly honors HIS MOTHER.  She took him to libraries in every town his military father’s career path placed them.  She helped him research every single offshoot of things he encountered in his reading, always making him feel as though books opened the door to parts of his future self.

But there’s something even more devastatingly compassionate in his telling in this chapter.

She, who had given up her education to get married, have and raise kids, lived not vicariously through his learning but symbiotically with him.  He wandered the wilderness around their home, found small critters and she got him books about wild animals in Africa.  He needed to read Shakespeare, they read it together and talked through unknown words.  She did his homework, not for him, for herself on the side, sometimes eliciting pity from him, but also admiration for her ‘indefatigable trek towards self improvement.’  She educated herself through her shepherding of his interests.

This has to be the most loving acknowledgement I’ve ever read of gratitude from child to parent.  It moved me so deeply.

And it’s only Chapter 1.  Onward to Chapter 2!

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