Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication Date: Kindle edition, 2010; originally published in 1973
Source: Free to borrow for Amazon Prime members
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.
Here is PAT CONROY’S extraordinary drama based on his own experience–the true story of a man who gave a year of his life to an island and the new life its people gave him.
We read The Water is Wide for book club over the past month and discussed the chapters weekly, my review is both my thoughts as well as some items that we chatted about in our discussions.
The book is a memoir by Pat Conroy who went to an island to teach the disconnected and native children on the island. These were black children, who had a school and a few teachers along the way, but had very little in the way of education. Pat goes to the island full of ideas of saving and education these children and retells a possibly dramatized version of his memories.
Personal Thoughts: The discussions we had about this book were rich and meaningful and I thoroughly enjoyed them, however the book was not a stand out book for me personally. There were a lot of details that I thought were missing and the timeline for me was problematic. Conroy tells his tale as he thinks it all links together versus in chronological order and it makes it VERY difficult to understand where we are in his overall teaching experience. He also begins the book saying we will talk about things later and then seems to let them die out without a return. At times Conroy is overly idealistic and it was hard to read as he came to terms with what was available to these students and what was not. Since this is a memoir and it is based on remembering of events, I felt the gaps were wide for certain events and very specific for others, and I did feel like he omitted information to make things seem more dire than they might have been.
Group Thoughts: This was a hard book to read for many reasons, it includes themes of racism, animal abuse, abusive relationships, severe punishment of students as well as shaming, and understanding that the education system did leave kids behind knowingly. Conroy did his best to shed light on these children and their lives and it was eye-opening. It also made us think about what we are still experiencing today with inequality and how this book was written in the 70's but is STILL relevant today for these themes.
Overall, this book is not a light read, you will feel a lot of emotions going though it and not all good ones and it focuses on a lot of conflicts throughout. However, if you are looking for a book to open your eyes to inherent racism and sometimes the idealistic views of new teachers, this might be a good read for you.