Saturday, March 22, 2014

Is staying with you the same as being good?

Recently, I happened upon a copy of The Prince of Tides. This is one of those books that I had always intended to read, and so was glad to finally crack the spine.

In this Pat Conroy novel, Tom, our good-Southern-boy protagonist, discovers that his wife is cheating on him the same day as his troubled sister attempts suicide...again. We don't quite know if Tom is running away from his problems or to his sister's aid, but either way he leaves the coastal Carolina region and heads to New York to rescue his twin. While there, he begins conversations with a psychiatrist intent on helping his sister. Through their discussions, he outlines a troubled childhood and makes his way towards redemption.

While this book held my interest well and I got through it pretty quickly, I am surprised to find that I still don't know how I feel about it. Specifically, I can't decide if I would call this a good book or not. I finished it weeks ago, and it is still on my mind.

There are elements of the book that I loved. Conroy's writing has a delightful cadence and beauty that bring the story to life. There are elements I hated, like the fact that an accomplished novelist resorted to telling me that the South is a very distinct place (on nearly every page) rather than showing me. I also fundamentally don't buy the entire construct of why a psychiatrist needs a schizophrenic patient's life story (told through a very biased lens) to help her patient.

But I'm still thinking about it.

So I think whether or not this is a successful book is an interesting question.

As a writer, I hope my work stays with people. I fear writing the kind of novels that people read and then never think of again. But, is simply staying with people sufficient to make my books successful?

Is staying with someone the same as a novel being really good?

I am curious as to your thoughts.


  1. i believe if it stuck with you, the author did a really good job making you think, but you don't have to like the story to make it a good book, because liking the story is subjective, being moved by the writing is transcendent - ha! i've always wanted to use that word!

    stopping by from the a to z challenge =)
    looking forward to what you have to say!

  2. This is my favorite Conroy book. My only gripe is that if you read many of his books, some themes seem to be recycled. This did stay with me, though. I read it 2-3 times, and it haunted me every single time.