Robbin Bruce: Here’s a idea if you have a few minutes during the holidays

  • Friday, November 29, 2013

Friday Mel called and asked me to run something to her at the office, I needed to run by Wally World, so I figured it was as good as time as any. Thanksgiving’s coming, and even though I plan on frying a couple turkeys every year, I always seem to wait to the last minute to get the stuff together. Last year, at the last minute my fryer died, and I had to run around and make some last minute arrangements, but this year is going to be different. Or so I thought, they were out of electric fryers. So like most of us, I just bummed around a few minutes, checking out the latest movies, the one I wanted wasn’t out yet, and the books.

As I was looking at the latest titles, I saw one that I heard was coming out, “The Death of Santini”, by Pat Conroy. A few months back somebody had posted on Facebook that he had written it, but to be honest I wasn’t sure I really wanted to read it. That might seem a little odd, unless you have ever read any of his books. Mr. Conroy’s books while wonderful stories have a tendency to go to the darkest part sometimes of human emotion, with all the burdens of the lead character’s life laid open for all the world to see. But at the end through the love and kindness of others he finds redemption.

All of us at one time or another have seen some of his work, either in his books or movies made from them. I first came to know his work back before I got out of high school when he published “The Water is Wide”, when he tells of being a teacher on Daufuskie Island off the coast of Beaufort. The story is about a young man who tries, for a lack of a better way of saying it, to bring the poor black children of the island into the 20th century against the status quo. I’ll leave it there and let you read it.

Then he came out with “The Great Santini”. It’s the story of a Marine Corps fighter pilot and his family, or should I say, his dysfunctional family. As I read it, one thought kept coming back to my mind, why do they call him “The Great” Santini, I understood it was a nickname, but as I read it, to me he was a bum, and somebody needed to take a baseball bat, well let’s not go there. But to me it was the story of a young man coming of age, trying to find his way through his teenage years while trying to come to grips with the fact that while his father was a hero to the outside world, he in actuality was a cruel man, and his family suffered because of it.

The next time I heard of him was when he wrote ‘The Lords of Discipline”, about a military-styled college in Charleston. We all knew he was talking about The Citadel, he graduated from there, but for literary sake they called it The Carolina Military Institute. I made the mistake of sitting down one afternoon after work, pulling my boots off, and thought I’d just read a minute. Five or six hours later I finally closed the last page.

Then came “Prince of Tides”. I don’t have to tell y’all about that one; we’ve all seen the movie at least a couple of times. Then came “Beach Music”, to be honest I’ve read it about three or four times.

What I love most about it is the relationship of the brothers. Each totally different, yet at the core of their souls, they are really the same. Just as I am with mine. My daughter Jessie has read it as many times as I have, to the point where she can almost relate each character in the book to either me, Joby or Roger. Then I read “South of Broad”, to me one of the funniest yet saddest books I’ve ever read, Jessie loved it, but she then told me she could never read it again.

But as you read his books one string runs through them, a father figure of less than desirable character traits and that is the kindest way I can think of saying it. Like as he was writing his books he over and over wanted to punish someone in his past, and the way to do it was through his books. I had heard his father had passed a few year ago, and when I heard the title, to be honest, I kind of thought it was going to be the final twist of the knife. I was wrong.

If you get a chance read “The Death of Santini”, you’ll love it.

You may contact Robbin Bruce by e-mail at


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