Every character is a tortured soul who has a tale to tell -- one more heartbreaking than the other. The main story follows Jack McCall, who flees to Rome with his young daughter Leah after his beloved wife Shyla has committed suicide. He leaves behind a bevy of colorful family and friends in an effort to escape his torment and begin a new life in a new land. As a travel writer by trade, Jack is able to pick up and live wherever he chooses. It is a telegram from a family member that will finally bring Jack back to South Carolina to face his demons and learn the stories of all those he loves.
Conroy has the ability of dropping crumbs along the way leading you to each character's hidden story. He touches on times in history involving the Holocaust and the Vietnam War -- each decade so real that I don't even want to think about the horrors. But it is these horrors that have come to shape the characters whose cards have been dealt and whose hands must be played. They are all part of a finely interwoven story with South Carolina as the stage for the grand finale.
In reading the book, I can only wonder if the author can write the last twenty pages and not cry himself. I don't usually cry when reading a book but I must admit that this one did me in. Conroy so neatly ties up all the loose ends so that the reader feels no need for a sequel as they are confident that the lives of the characters they have come to love will go on.
While this is a book about tortured souls, it is also a book that holds great promise filled with love and hope and devotion and yes...redemption. We always talk about the books that will stay with us forever. This is one for me...music to my ears...Beach Music that is.
I love Conroy's writing because it is always so contradictory. He makes you love and hate his characters at the same time. I started out by being completely annoyed with John Hardin in this novel, and then he ended up being my favorite character--he was so funny and outrageous. I felt the same about his mother--loved and hated her at the time time. I remember this was also true of his characters when I read "Prince of Tides." He has such an ability to play with the reader's emotions.
Beach Music was harder than his other novels because of so many subplots & characters, but instead of wishing it hadn't been so long and gone into so much, I found myself wishing it was longer, and he had developed the characters & subplots even more.
There is always a feeling of "letdown" when you finish one of Pat Conroy's novels because you don't want it to end. Nobody writes about "dysfunction" with his sense of humor.