Pat Controy: The Prince of Tides

by Rachel Baker on August 28, 2013

A recent posting on listed 32 life changing books.  This list got me thinking about what one book would I consider life changing.

The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy, is the one book that has stayed with me for many many years. This is the one book that I have gone back to over and over through the years. This is also the one book that I’ve gotten something different from each and every time I have read it.

The first time I read The Prince of Tides, I was a teenager. At that time, I thought that one day I wanted to live the bohemian life in New York City as a writer…I thought I had something to say, and holy hell, did I want to bash around Greenwich Village for a few years, wearing gypsy skirts and barely making my rent.

I loved The Prince of Tides, then, because of the locations. Small-town-on-the-water, South Carolina was in my young mind equivalent to small-town-on-the-water, Florida. Savannah made it out of her small town and was a writer in the big city. She went nuts – but didn’t all artists? – par for the course, right? Because of this book, I believed I didn’t have to spend the rest of my life in small-town-on-the-water, Florida. It must be said, none of the characters mattered to me.

I had no idea what the book was really about until a few years later….

The second reading of The Prince of Tides came quite a few years later while I was still in the military. The location didn’t matter one iota – I was already seeing the world with the military.

This time, I’d found a copy of the book in a used book store. It was old, musty, smudged, dog-eared and underlined. It was well worn, well read and, judging from the number of first names on the inside book cover and underlines, well loved by a bunch of college students. I’d been in the military for a few years, and missed the crap out of my family. I remembered this book had a really good sibling relationship in it; strangely, I didn’t remember anything else about the book at this point. So, I bought it.

At this point in my life, The Prince of Tides was about the sibling relationships, and the lengths you go to when your sibling needs help in their own life. It doesn’t matter what is happening in your own life or what responsibilities you have of your own, you go help. That’s what the book was about…then.

:shaking my head: I still didn’t have a total comprehension of what the book was really about.

I’ve bought the book several times over the years, having lost it in moves or by loaning it out. Each time I’d read it, something different moved me. But I still never really understood what it was about.

It’d been more than 10 years without it when I bought it a few months ago for Kindle. It turns out, this time around, The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy was about how the traumas of childhood can come back to haunt you in adulthood; and how sometimes these traumas are pretty devastating. Everyone has a different prespective of the same event and everyone is affected in completely different ways. …And, it turns out this is one of the few books I’ve ever found that so incredibly addresses how the pains and hurts from childhood affect adult children.

The Prince of Tides is without a doubt one of the best fiction books I can every remember reading. Every time I’ve read it, I’ve been moved to a new understanding about the world around me and the affects family has on our individual lives.

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