Living with Pat Conroy

Living with Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy had a hard time writing less than a thousand pages at a time — much to his editors’ chagrin.

Living with Pat Conroy was a similarly overwhelming experience.

“It was a story a day, that’s what happens when you live with Pat,” said Cassandra King Conroy, who was married to the larger-than-life novelist for the last 18 years of his life.

Writing about their time together in her tender, domestic memoir, “Tell Me a Story: My Life With Pat Conroy,” King Conroy had to leave out as much as she included. “I guess I had so many stories to choose from, I may have to do a sequel,” said King Conroy, who will speak about the book Wednesday, Oct. 30, at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Conroy, author of sweeping novels of Southern life including “The Great Santini ” and “The Prince of Tides,” died March 4, 2016, from pancreatic cancer. His death triggered an outpouring of affection from his readers and a brace of biographies from fellow writers.

King Conroy’s memoir arrives on the heels of a pair of books — “The Lost Prince” by Michael Mewshaw and the oral biography “My Exaggerated Life” by Katherine Clark. Right around the same time as hers, another memoir will arrive: “Pat Conroy: a Lifelong Friendship” by Conroy’s friend from childhood, Bernie Schein.

King Conroy said she knew her book would be one of several, and she has kind words for most (but not all) of the other memoirs and biographies.

She can afford to be generous in spirit because she knows her unique vantage point makes her own account invaluable. “Tell Me A Story” traces her relationship with Conroy, from their accidental meet-cute at an Alabama literary event to their two-year courtship by telephone, to their long, fruitful years writing together, he at his end of their Beaufort, S.C. house and she at hers. Entering into a relationship with Pat Conroy was like entering one of his novels, boiling with drama and characters. Because of King’s youthful appearance, she was described as a “young filly” by a family member when Conroy brought her to a family reunion. She was actually 18 months older than Conroy.

When the pair discussed marriage, she told him her age might be a consideration: “Who knows, I said — he might want to start another family,” she writes. “Pat had hooted at that notion. The last thing he needed, he said, the very last thing, was another (expletive) family.”

Conroy already had, at that point, two rather complex blended families from his two previous marriages. What he and King Conroy enjoyed was a respite from that drama, a quiet coda on the shore of Beaufort, South Carolina’s tranquil Battery Creek.

Not that being married to Pat Conroy was a bowl of Cheerios.

King Conroy often found herself answering the phone for the famously gregarious and yet also famously antisocial Conroy, who consistently ducked phone calls from those seeking him for blurbs or speaking engagements. “He was such a great speaker, he […]

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