The late Pat Conroy, a well known Southern writer admired for his bestsellers “The Prince of Tides,” “The Great Santini,” and “Beach Time,” among other books, is the subject of “Tell Me a Story” by his wife Cassandra King Conroy, a famed writer in her own right. Cassandra’s voice is folksy, comfortable and loving as she relates memories of their 18-year-marriage, which culminated in Pat’s death in 2016 from pancreatic cancer at age 70.
The couple met at a book event—Cassandra a fledgling Alabama writer with a book about to be published, in awe of actually meeting the great Pat Conroy, an author of renowned success who she held in high esteem. Alas Pat had just left, she was told, but he returned to the room when he heard someone wanted to meet him—a happy, chance encounter Pat later attributed to fate.
Their romance didn’t take hold immediately; in actuality it was a slow waltz that occurred over a number of years and was built on a foundation of friendship. Pat had weathered failed marriages, and Cassandra, a college teacher, was struggling to come to terms with her separation and divorce from her preacher husband, a role she’d found increasingly constrictive as she tried to keep up appearances for the congregation.
Set in the Carolina Lowcountry, “Tell Me A Story” will appeal to fans of Pat Conroy’s books, some based on his experiences growing up in a dysfunctional family, which definitely left the writer scarred with baggage he brought into his marriage to Cassandra, who he dubbed King Ray.
Pat was a man with a zest for life that led him to live hard and fast, oftentimes drinking to excess, his love of food contributing to his diabetes, but he met his match in Cassandra, who could hold her ground with him. Ironically, Pat had launched a plan of healthy living and abstaining from alcohol when he was diagnosed with cancer.
The good years Cassandra and Pat had together make up the lion’s share of this intimate and at times lighthearted book, Cassandra’s voice inviting readers into their home and her heart, as she lives day to day with Pat, a writer with a larger-than-life personality.