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The Water is Wide
Pat Conroy
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The Water is Wide

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  13,209 Ratings  ·  924 Reviews
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 ...more
Published November 1st 1987 by Perfection Learning (first published 1969)
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Aug 28, 2013 Alexandra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably more of a reflection than a"review" I read this book when I first started teaching, and my naive and much younger self wanted to be exactly the kind of teacher Pat Conroy had wanted to be-one who worked with children who needed me and whose lives I could touch in some way-only I would do it better of course! My first teaching job plunked me down in a non-air-conditioned overcrowded school in Little Havana (in the heart of the city of Miami, FL for you non-natives) with 100% of m ...more
Apr 20, 2016 Camie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After graduating from the Citadel in the late 1960's and before becoming a beloved bestselling Southern author Pat Conroy spent a pretty exasperating but inspiring year teaching a group of impoverished and undereducated black children on Yamacraw Island off the South Carolina coast. Put in charge of 18 supposedly higher level kids who could neither read or write and didn't even know that they lived in America, he takes on the challenge with unconventional methods such as movies, music, and even ...more
Feb 27, 2016 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio, usa, race, audible, 2016-read
I want everybody to read, no listen to, The Water is Wide. It is that good a book. There are sublime sentences, most often straight out of the mouths of the eighteen black kids whom he's teaching, 1969-970, on Yamacraw Island (Daufuski Island), South Carolina. Until he got kicked out for insubordination after one year as a teacher! That is told at the very beginning so it is no spoiler. He is a fantastic teacher. He is the kind of teacher these kids needed.

In the prologue the author says how he
I was really impressed with this book. Not only did I enjoy the story, which is true, but I also enjoyed the writing of Pat Conroy. This is the first book I have read by Conroy. This is about the experience Conroy had in the early 70’s teaching in a one room school house on Yamacraw Island (which is the pseudonym for Daufuskie Island), an island off the coast of South Carolina. This island was populated by mostly African Americans. The experience was truly eye opening . It really depicted the so ...more
Jun 05, 2008 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: biography, education
This was the first Pat Conroy book I read, and several years later, I had an opportunity to spend some time on Yamacraw, the island where he taught school. It was a magical place, with sandy roads shaded by great oak trees dripping with spanish moss. The people lived in backwards conditions, but they were tied to the land and their relationship with the land and the ocean in a way that few if any of the rest of us will ever experience. This is an inspiring, uplifting book and I am a better perso ...more
Aug 30, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: conroy
This was another outstanding book by Pat Conroy,he is a amazing storyteller. This book really makes you think about how society and how racism plays a big part in it. The characters were believable and you often felt sympathy for some of the characters. What separates Pat from most authors is the fact that lives what he writes, he is not just telling the story but he actually lived through it.
I had gotten a copy of this book a while back for a few reasons:
1. It takes place in SC
2. Pat Conroy is a SC writer
3. I like some of his stuff, despite his lunatic family
4. I had fond memories of the movie
5. One of my favorite folk songs is "The Water is Wide".
6. A friend of mine is mentioned in the afterword.

I saw the movie made from this book when I was a teenager, a few years before my family moved to South CArolina. It made a big impression on me, so it was with some trepidation that I actua
Dec 27, 2009 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Conroy, a successful novelist, spent a year teaching on an isolated island off the coast of South Carolina. The year was the 1969-70 school year and the island populated by highly disadvantaged sea islanders, mostly African-American with a handful of custodial whites who run the island and its limited services. Conroy, in his young twenties, a relatively recent graduate from The Citadel, had taught high school on the mainland for a couple of years. He is shocked by the impact of the historical m ...more
Apr 23, 2012 LemonLinda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pat Conroy is a wizard with words. This is a true account of his sojourn as a young teacher in a two room schoolhouse on an impoverished island off the lower South Carolina coast. He made each of these students come to life and I was so involved both in the account of what went on in the classroom as well as what was happening behind the scenes in administration that had kept the inadequacies and inequalities in place.

I guess I so connected with this story because I went to public schools in the
Aug 24, 2009 Sidna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say? I LOVE Pat Conroy's writing! In My Losing Season the way he describes a basketball game is pure poetry. While I was hanging about the local bookseller (as opposed to a book store) waiting for Conroy to write another book, I realized I had never read The Water is Wide. I don't know how I missed a Conroy book. I bought a copy and devoured it as soon as I got home! After having read all his other books and knowing his family history, it was an interesting read. He wrote this book be ...more
Jul 02, 2015 Donna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love Pat Conroy's way with words. He has such a keen sense of description. He doesn't use a lot of words, yet manages to be very precise in his details. This detail makes his characters vivid and memorable.

There are crappy teachers who care more for their job than the students, and then there are the ones who roll up their sleeves and reach with both hands in order to make a difference. Teachers need to be teachable. Some of the problems with public schools that were addressed in this book, a
Cynthia .
Aug 04, 2011 Cynthia . rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, pat-conroy
It would be hard to explain what Pat Conroy is like if one has never read any of his books. But imagine the beautiful flow of a river; the perpetual dance of its waters and the calming music they create upon their every stroke with every earthly matter. Imagine the soothing feeling you can luxuriate in when you let your feet touch its cool waters. That is what Pat Conroy and his words are for me.


I learned things about Pat Conroy's life that I was unaware of. I sure admire his youthful passion and indignation at the inequities in educational opportunities in this small, segregated southern community in the 1960's. As someone who has vacationed numerous times on the South Carolina coast, this sharp look at recent history is very compelling. And, disturbing. How could this have happened in the 60's?

I loved his almost lyrical style of writing. The descriptions of the students giving a summ
Kilian Metcalf
I'm having a little literary love affair with Pat Conroy. It started with Prince of Tides and continues with Lords of Discipine and The Great Santini. His is a powerful voice, and I'm glad I'm not involved in any organization or situation that he is interested in. He is a gadfly, afflicting the comfortable. I can see why his strong opinions and vocal criticism would get people's backs up in opposition. He comes on so strong that those who don't share his opinions cannot take the necessary step b ...more
Jan 29, 2014 Ken rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because I am overly descriptive, I would have subtitled this book "The arrogance of idealism" because it so well documents the reality that comes with facing an entrenched culture and assuming that it can be changed simply because one's ideas are superior.

From a practical perspective I have known many teachers that have faced the ridiculously long odds of administrative agendas that have no bearing on educating children and persevered because they matured enough to persist in what they were doin
Jul 15, 2009 Rhonda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-fiction
I didn't much care for this book when I read it, not because the unorthodox spirit of teaching was so rampant, but because I didn't think it provided functional answers to the education problem. On the other hand, the creative and unorthodox manner of teaching, that's hard to dislike and I wish we had more teachers who thought this way and could teach in a more unstructured way.
I read this book thoroughly angry with the school superintendent and the whole town for that matter. I demanded that t
Jun 06, 2012 Gretchen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I really enjoyed this book. Mr. Conroy, a young, idealistic, middle-class white teacher is offered a job to teach on mostly-African American Yamacraw Island, an island in South Carolina virtually cut off from society, both figuratively and literally. The year was 1969 and in the Southern United States, children of different races were not educated together. Educating the students who lived on the impoverished island of Yamacraw proved to be a challenge for the young teacher, as he fought for opp ...more
Mar 17, 2016 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Goodreads description of this book is simply terrible. This is the story of a white man, who in 1969, took a job teaching completely illiterate, isolated, culturally ignorant, poverty stricken black children on an island off the coast of South Carolina. None of these children could even name the country they lived in and the white school board in charge of them was apathetic, unaware and oblivious. Conroy spent his year teaching these kids using unconventional methods, anything at all that would ...more
With Mr. Conroy's recent passing, it occurred to me that I had not read any of his books. This one, his first, is a memoir of teaching in the south in the 60s. Much like Gloria Steinem's book from the 80s, his story reminded me that we really have a far way to go.
Tiffany Reisz
Jun 16, 2015 Tiffany Reisz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mar 17, 2015 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great contrast with so many of the usual plot-driven but meaning-less books I come across. Conroy is a great writer, a poet. But that is not so unusual. It is Conroy's willingness to discuss what it means to be human that makes his work special.

I love a good teacher memoir. This is a great one, full of surprises. A great story of an idealistic but young and naive teacher. His energy and ambition was matched only by his chutzpah, arrogance, and complete lack of diplomacy. But the author reflects
May 14, 2016 Sandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 story. A true story in Pat Conroy's life.
Pat Conroy taught fifth grade through eighth for one year on Yamacraw Island. A small island off South Carolina. The island had several black families and their children were more or less ignored by the school system. When he started to teach his students, he found they couldn't recite the alphabet, read or do math. "Half of them were incapable of expressing even the simplest thoughts on paper. Three of them could not write their names."
These childr
Audrey K.
Nov 22, 2015 Audrey K. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. Pat Conroy tells his adventurous story of being a young white teacher of limited experience in 1969, teaching impoverished and minimally-educated black children on the island of Yamacraw, South Carolina. Integration of schools was new, especially in the South, and especially for some of the crusty old types in the school district hierarchy. Integration was not an issue on Yamacraw - all the children inhabiting the island were black. The children do not know basic math, and most do not ...more
Apr 07, 2016 Kissmekate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nachdem er eine Zeitlang an einer Highschool unterrichtet hat und von den verhärteten Fronten zwischen Schwarz und Weiß, die er gerne aufzubrechen geholfen hätte, enttäuscht ist, bewirbt sich Pat Conroy auf eine Stelle, die wohl nicht jeder Lehrer freiwillig angenommen hätte: seine neuen Schützlinge sind eine 18köpfige altersgemischte Klasse in der winzigen Schule auf Yamacraw Island, einem winzigen Inselchen von der Küste South Carolinas.

Aus Sicht der Schulbehörde ist dort Hopfen und Malz verlo
Leslie Nelson
May 01, 2016 Leslie Nelson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Fascinating story not only about the racial issues that continue to plague us, but on human nature as well. Pat Conroy is very insightful, and I particularly liked how he was willing to own his own past mistakes and prejudices. I don't know what all it will take to heal our country, but I think owning our mistakes and prejudices is a must.
Apr 15, 2015 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book years ago, but recently re-read it for our book club. I love Conroy and his way with words. I think it is a Southern thing, but I am partial to Southern writers and so appreciate their use of language.
This book is his memoir of the year he spent teaching on Yamacraw Island; just off the coast of South Carolina. Being Pat Conroy, he rocks the boat, tips the scales, and thoroughly disrupts life there, but oh what a wondeful teacher he was for that year to those children who had be
Apr 20, 2009 Joanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I can't remember if I read this before or after I saw the movie "Conrack" with Jon Voight but they're both great.
May 28, 2015 Caroline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really like some of Pat Conroy's books (South of Broad, King of Tides) but not a fan of others (any of the Santini books) so I typically approach his books with hesitation. However, The Water is Wide definitely falls into the LIKE category.

I am always intrigued by isolated places and Yamacraw Island is just the type of isolated place to capture my attention. I love learning about the locals of the island and how a young, idealistic Pat Conroy handled a year as a teacher for these isolated and
Sep 10, 2014 Beth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Conroy shares his experience teaching on an isolated island off the South Carolina coast in the 1960s. Truthfully, I'm not sure if it was the writing on the story that makes me rate this a 3 (it was ok) versus something higher. You can imagine what his teaching experience on an isolated island, largely left alone by modern day, was like: poor families, students who could not read and did not know that the name of their country was the United States of America, an education system controlled on t ...more
Paul Haspel
Jul 29, 2015 Paul Haspel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: south-carolina
The waterway that separates Daufuskie Island from the mainland of South Carolina does not seem too wide, if one is simply looking at a map. Daufuskie is one of the Sea Islands that are renowned for their natural beauty. Yet it is also a place where the profusion of heavy manufacturing plants around Savannah, Georgia, fostered water pollution that devastated the fishing industry upon which the island’s predominantly African-American residents had long depended for their livelihood. And in the lat ...more
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Books Are Cheaper...: Book Two: The Water is Wide 4 11 Oct 22, 2013 06:35AM  
Lloyd 2012: foreshadowing 1 10 Oct 07, 2012 06:09PM  
Lloyd 2012: protagonist and antagonist 1 9 Sep 23, 2012 06:56PM  
Lloyd 2012: action verbs, sensory deatails, and colorful modifiers 1 4 Sep 17, 2012 06:48PM  
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Pat Conroy (1945 - 2016) was the New York Times bestselling author of two memoirs and seven novels, including The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline. Born the eldest of seven children in a rigidly disciplined military household, he attended the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina. He briefly became a schoolteacher (which he chronicled in his memoir The Wate ...more
More about Pat Conroy...

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“I dislike poor teachers. They are criminals to me. I’ve seen so much cruelty toward children. I’ve seen so many children not given the opportunity to live up to their potential as human beings.” 3 likes
“Lightning flashed around the island; thunder played its favorite game of scaring the crap out of all the shivering mortals on the earth below.” 2 likes
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