Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Water Is Wide” as Want to Read:
The Water Is Wide
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Water Is Wide

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  18,548 ratings  ·  1,382 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
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 1st 1987 by Bantam (first published 1972)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Water Is Wide, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Kayleigh Nicole I spent 2 years teaching at a high school on a sea island in South Carolina. Yes, while reading it, the inherent racism was a little bit troubling,…moreI spent 2 years teaching at a high school on a sea island in South Carolina. Yes, while reading it, the inherent racism was a little bit troubling, however that was their life at that school and continues to be a reality for many people who are part of that community. Not all parts of history, especially in the south, are rosy. In my experience, the cultural differences of my school were largely ignored by the district office on the mainland, much like Conroy writes about in his book. Things have improved immensely since his time, but in reading this book my first year teaching in South Carolina I learned so much about the history of the sea islands and learned so much about my students and their families.(less)
Irma I saw this movie recently and was greatly touched. I have always wondered if Conroy returned to the Island after he was fired. It seemed he had just…moreI saw this movie recently and was greatly touched. I have always wondered if Conroy returned to the Island after he was fired. It seemed he had just opened the world up for these children then had to leave. Did any of them go on to improve their lives?
(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  18,548 ratings  ·  1,382 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Alexandra
Nov 06, 2008 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
Sue
This is an enlightening book and also obviously the book of a young man as it is at times both overwhelmingly idealistic and alarmingly naive. Pat Conroy agreed to teach for a year on Yamacraw Island off the coast of South Carolina. There he encounters a world apart, conditions unlike anything he has encountered in his teaching on the mainland. He is to teach the children of the island, the people who used to live from fishing but now can't support themselves from polluted waters. He encounters ...more
Chrissie
Jan 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Fred Shaw
Jul 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Published in the early 70’s, this is the phenomenal memoir of Pat Conroy as a teacher in 1969, on Defuskie Island, SC. His students were all black and mostly illiterate due to an “out of sight, out of mind” and racist mindset perpetuated by the school board on the mainland. Without going into all Pat did for those students, he was fired trying to bring joyous teaching and exposure to the world beyond their island. However he did not have the political skills to better the system. Because this st ...more
Negin
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography, usa
Pat Conroy is one of my favorite authors now. I loved “Beach Music” so very much. His writing style is just wonderful. This book is a memoir. Conroy spent a year teaching at an all-black school on an island off South Carolina.

This is the island


and here is the school.


He was faced with endless challenges. Since it was 1969, racism was a huge problem. Another challenge was the awful administration. Towards the end of the book, I realized that they made a movie based on this book. I now remember se
...more
Irene
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1969, Pat Conroy, a young idealistic teacher, accepted a position at a two room school house on an impoverished and isolated island off the coast of South Carolina. He is assigned the class of 5th-8th graders. The largely segregated school district of which this island was a part, had presumed that these Black children were inherently incapable of learning and treated them accordingly. He found a group of 18 students who could not recite the alphabet, let alone read, could not count to 10, le ...more
BAM The Bibliomaniac
I realize this book has an underlying focus on racism in the South in the late '60s, but the other plot line I what resonated with me-a gifted teacher unfairly losing his job. I lost mine 10 years ago, gosh as long ago now as I taught. It was quite difficult for me to read how inspired Conroy was in the classroom, how much he cared about his students and their minds and futures only to be told he's insubordinate and no longer wanted. "To fire me so insensitively is one thing, but they try to des ...more
Jeanette
Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pat Conroy's memoir of his year teaching 1969-70. It's kids of Gullah dialect S.C. island living who don't have cultural context to the English and other subjects, like American History and reading skills- that he is trying to teach them. He tries to use active trips, other activities which give experience and relate to their family and island life- instead of the usual physical consequence and heavily redundant reciting lessons of former and approved school structure. So he argues with the boss ...more
Kellie
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
Maureen
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: education, biography
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
Ned
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here’s an author I had overlooked, regrettably, as my prejudice had relegated him to a grade B author – too popular to really be any good (or so I thought). I had even been to his beloved Charleston a couple of years ago, and was told that he was “the guy” to read before going, but I ignored that. Most of all, he was in my favorite local bookstore 5 years ago, Left Bank books in Saint Louis, and I did not show. Then last year someone at work gave me this book as a gift, and I have finally read i ...more
bookczuk
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
...more
LibraryCin
When Pat Conroy was a new teacher, he set out for a small island off the coast of South Carolina in 1969/70 to teach poor kids at a black school there. What a culture shock! Not only did these kids mostly not know how to read or write, but they had never experienced Halloween! Pat did a lot for these kids over the year, and taught them in unorthodox ways.

I thought this was a memoir, but it was only at the very end of the book that it said it was “based on” his year on the island. I think it als
...more
Michael
May 04, 2010 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.
Rick
Dec 27, 2009 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
Sarah
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I knew that this was a memoir but I didn't realize it was a memoir about one specific year in the author's life; 1969. He offers to take a teaching position on Yamacraw Island only to realize that these children have been overlooked and basically treated like crap because they're black and poor. Conroy's idealism and belief that right and wrong are the only thing that matters leads to him becoming a passionate advocate of the island children, and earns him the enmity of people who just want to c ...more
Sidna
Aug 24, 2009 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
Michael
Moving and enlightening account of a year Conroy spent in the 60�s teaching disadvantaged black elementary school students in a two-room schoolhouse on a small coastal island off of Beaufort, SC. He is appalled at the poor level of education and limited aspirations of his students due to the isolation of the fishing community and cycle of poverty. It was exciting to experience the creative approaches Conroy uses to get through to the kids and efforts to get their parents and school administratio ...more
LemonLinda
Feb 02, 2010 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
...more
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
Elizabeth
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
Donna
May 16, 2015 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
...more
Perri
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is not his magnus opus- that would be my just finished Prince of Tides, but I enjoyed this just as much. A young, passionate Conroy has been fired after one year of teaching, then spends time reflecting and writing about his experience. While raging against the racial injustices, he's candid about his own shortcomings and surprisingly forgiving toward his adversaries. Mostly it's his love and support of his students which shine the brightest. A great book to end the year, but I think I'll k ...more
Cynthia Peña
Aug 05, 2010 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.

"beautiful
....calming
....soothing
....perpetual"

Chrisl
An informative look at social conditions in South Carolina in the 1960s. Also, one of the 60 or so books I own and have read multiple times. Influenced my decision that teaching wasn't a vocation in which I'd thrive. As did Deschooling
Deschooling Society

Melissa
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.
Margie
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A moving memoir by Conroy - the author wanted to teach the children of Yamacraw Island, South Carolina. The few families that inhabit the island made a living from the ocean until an industrial factory contaminated the water and oysters around the island, destroying the families' way of living. Conroy sought to teach the children others ways to make a living, educating them in order to earn money in other ways.

The time period is in the 60's and racism was alive and well in the South. Conroy was
...more
Numidica
I am going to be the curmudgeon and admit I do not like Pat Conroy's writing style very much. That said, his story of teaching on Daufuskie Island (which he calls Yamacraw in the book) is compelling despite his less than stellar prose, and it is a historical document, in a way. When I first laid eyes on Daufuskie, walking the beach of Hilton Head with my then-girlfriend in the 1980's, the black families whose ancestors had lived there since the 1860's still owned the place, though the word was a ...more
Terri
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have not really been a fan of Pat Conroy's writing. I really wanted to like him because he's from the South, and many people love his Southern literature. I liked a few of his earlier works that I read when I was much younger, but I found the stories in his later works of fiction to be just ridiculous, contrived, and far-fetched. I particularly despised Beach Music and South of Broad. I kept hearing from Conroy fans that I should read The Water is Wide and The Great Santini. These were the 2nd ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I'm Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground
  • North Toward Home
  • The Whisper of the River (Porter Osborne Jr, #2)
  • My Exaggerated Life: Pat Conroy (Non Series)
  • An Hour Before Daylight: Memories of a Rural Boyhood
  • The Spirit of Sweetgrass
  • Mama Makes Up Her Mind and Other Dangers of Southern Living
  • Southern Fatality (A Jersey Barnes Mystery #1)
  • The Bridge
  • Up Island and Low Country
  • Making Waves
  • Peninsula of Lies: A True Story of Mysterious Birth and Taboo Love
  • The Prince of Frogtown
  • Marriage and Other Acts of Charity
  • When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life's Sacred Questions
  • Walking Across Egypt
  • Cross Creek
See similar books…
2,414 followers
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
“No man or woman has the right to humiliate children, even in the sacrosanct name of education. No one has the right to beat children with leather straps, even under the sacred auspices of all school boards in the world.” 5 likes
“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.” 5 likes
More quotes…