celebrities, disasters, music, obits, YouTube

Hana Horka bets and loses on deliberately catching COVID-19…

Yesterday, I wrote that I’m really tired of reading and hearing about COVID-19, and all of the preaching related to the virus. That’s still a true statement. However, this morning I read a very sad news story about Hana Horka, a woman from the Czech Republic who deliberately exposed herself to COVID-19. Why? Because like Germany, the Czech Republic is making life harder for the unvaccinated by denying them entry to restaurants, theaters, saunas, and the like. Unfortunately, her decision cost her dearly. Instead of heading for the nearest spa, newly recovered from COVID-19, this woman– only 57 years old when she died– is headed to the Great Beyond– whatever that is.

The story goes that Hana Horka, who was a member of famed Czech band Asonance, was against being vaccinated. Her son, Jan Rek, said that it wasn’t because she believed in any ridiculous conspiracy theories. She didn’t think, for instance, that anyone getting a vaccine was going to be implanted with microchips or have their DNA changed in some way. Rather, Rek says that his mother simply preferred to get COVID and have “natural immunity” to the virus instead of getting a vaccine.

According to Rek, over the Christmas holidays, he and his father, who are both fully vaccinated, both tested positive for COVID-19. Horka determined that this would be her chance to finally contract COVID-19 and qualify for a health pass. So, instead of isolating herself and avoiding her sick family members, Hana Horka deliberately exposed herself to COVID. She looked forward to getting the virus and eventually recovering, which would allow her the ability to, once again, access fun venues that are denied to unvaccinated people in many parts of Europe. Having recovered from the virus, Horka would also have been allowed to perform with Asonance without having to be vaccinated.

At first, it looked like her plan had worked. Two days before she died, Horka posted on social media, “I survived… It was intense. Now there will be theatre, sauna, a concert… and an urgent trip to the sea”. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

On the morning of her untimely death, Horka was feeling better. She got dressed to take a walk. But then her back started to hurt, so she went to her bedroom for a rest. Ten minutes later, she was dead, having choked to death.

I obviously don’t know what happened to cause Horka’s sudden demise, but I have read that COVID can cause blood clots. Perhaps she had a pulmonary embolism, which I know can and does kill people very suddenly. But her son mentions choking, which doesn’t sound like the same thing. Anyway, it’s a very sad loss, especially for her family members and friends, but also for anyone who enjoyed her talents. Asonance is the oldest folk band in the Czech Republic. I have no doubt that Horka’s music was beloved by many of her fellow Czechs as well as others around the world.

Hana Horka at work with her band. The music is over for her, now. I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat listening to this.

Horka’s son, Jan Rek, says that he blames the many “anti-vax” groups across Europe who have been protesting vaccine mandates. Approximately 63 percent of the population in the Czech Republic are fully vaccinated. Many of those who aren’t vaccinated have been protesting and rebelling against the government’s new restrictions. There are also reports of anti-vax groups holding “COVID parties”, in much the same way people in the 1970s deliberately exposed children to chicken pox. People who can prove that they have recovered from COVID-19 don’t have to be vaccinated, and they aren’t subjected to the restrictions that punish those who refuse to comply with vaccine mandates.

Rek says the anti-vax groups have “blood on their hands.” According to the Daily Beast, Rek also added:

“I know exactly who influenced her… It makes me sad that she believed strangers more than her proper family… It wasn’t just total disinformation but also views on natural immunity and antibodies acquired through infection.”

Rek said that it was pointless to discuss the merits of getting the vaccine with his mom because the discussion would very quickly become “emotional”. I heard similar comments about one of my unvaccinated sisters from my own mom, who had expressed concern to me that she refused the shots. Mom told me that she couldn’t talk to my sister about her worries, because my sister would very quickly get upset with her. Rek says that now he’s telling his mother’s story, hoping that might persuade some people to get vaccinated. It occurs to me that my sister, who has spent too much time in North Carolina, has a habit of saying “Holy Hannah!” as an exclamation. I can’t help but realize the next time I hear her say that, I’ll probably think of “Holy Hana…” in honor of this singer, who may very well literally be holy now.

I know that yesterday, I complained about the pandemic preaching and lectures on social media. I still do find that an annoying practice. However, I think sharing stories like this one is a valuable practice. The main difference is, like anyone else who has had direct experience with COVID, Hana Horka was a living, breathing, singing person who made real and measurable differences in people’s lives. In Hana’s case, it was obviously with her music, but I know there were other gifts she had that other people enjoyed. She made an unfortunate choice, that ultimately led to her destruction. Her story isn’t a “stale” meme, and it’s not been passed around social media like a plate of microwaved hors d’oeuvres at a party. This is real news, and unfortunately, Hana Horka is just one more face to add to the tragic tapestry of COVID-19 deaths.

Look at how much Hana Horka loved to perform. I wish I had discovered this band in a different way… not because a member died of COVID, but because they make beautiful music.
I think it’s profoundly sad that Hana can no longer sing with her band, all because of a tiny, destructive, deadly virus.

So, as much as I am sick and tired of face mask preaching social media posts, COVID-19 lectures, and arguments among friends and family, I do appreciate stories about real people who made choices, and how those choices worked out for them in the end. I do pay attention to their stories and I don’t laud their deaths. Listening to the videos above, I know that Hana Horka’s death is a real loss to many people. I wish she had chosen differently, and I hope her story informs those who need to know about it. But obviously, people are going to do what they’re going to do, and they’re going to believe what they’re going to believe.

My heart goes out to Horka’s family… especially her son, who obviously grieves for her. I’m sure it’s especially heartbreaking for him to know that his mother got the virus from him and his father. He probably lives with an especially hellish form of survivor’s guilt over that. I wish peace and comfort for them all.

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book reviews, religion

Reviewing Not Without My Sister– an absolutely appalling book on many levels…

Here’s a very serious trigger warning. This book review is about a story that includes discussion of child abuse on all levels. If you are particularly sensitive to such content, please consider moving to your next Internet station.

Last night, I finally finished a book I’ve been struggling to finish for the past few weeks. The 2012 book is titled Not Without My Sister: The True Story of Three Girls Violated and Betrayed by Those They Trusted. It was written by Celeste Jones, Juliana Buhring, and Kristina Jones (I’m assuming her name was Jones at one point– she is an author, but wasn’t noted on Amazon). Obviously, based on the title, I knew the book wasn’t going to be particularly light and uplifting. I decided to read it because I am fascinated by weird religious cults. The three authors of this book, half-sisters who had the same father, Christopher Jones, grew up in a very sick and abusive sex cult. Their parents were followers of David Berg’s Children of God cult, now known as The Family International.

David Berg founded the Children of God in Huntington Beach, California, back in 1968. He originally called his group Teens for Christ, and it mostly consisted of young “hippie”, “lost youth” types, many of whom were musically talented drifters. The group eventually changed its name to Children of God, and communes were founded all around the world. Members of the cult would busk, sell tapes and literature, and collect donations. The members would build their memberships by engaging in what they called “flirty fishing”, using sex to hook new people. Basically, they would bring in “hormonal converts”, a tried and true way for religious organizations to get more bodies.

Interview about a Children of God Survivor. This lady is also very graphic about what she went through.

By 1972, the Children of God cult had 130 communities around the world. By many yardsticks, that number of communes meant that the movement had achieved great success. However, the members were living in squalor, and the poor children who were born into the cult suffered horrific abuse on every imaginable level. That horrific abuse is basically what Not Without My Sister is about.

Celeste, Juliana, and Kristina were three sisters who were lucky enough to sort of know each other on some level. Celeste’s and Kristina’s mother left the cult when she was very young, so Celeste grew up missing her mom and barely knowing their dad. Juliana, and another half-sister Mariana (by a different dad), were daughters of Christopher Jones’ next wife, a German woman named Serena. Celeste didn’t like Serena, at least at first. As she grew older, she realized Serena wasn’t all that bad. Their father had other children, too. He had a Greek daughter named Davida that he barely knew, and a son named Victor who was passed around to different couples to raise. In fact, all of the children were taken from their parents and shuffled around to different people or training “schools”. They were forced to call their minders “Auntie” and “Uncle”, or if they had new foster parents, they had to call them “Mummy” or “Daddy”. To not do so would result in severe beatings that would leave their backsides bruised and bloodied.

As disturbing as all of that is, I haven’t even gotten to the worst part of the story. (and here’s where you might want to stop reading) I mentioned that this is (or was) a sex cult. That meant that adults were having sex in front of children… sometimes huge crowds of them. And it also meant the children were forced to engage in those relations with each other, even when they were extremely young. And when I say young, I mean barely out of diapers, baby teeth young. But the leaders and other adults did not refer to that act as anything sinister. It was called “making love”. And the children had to do it, whether they wanted to or not. They were often filmed, and the videos were sent to David Berg. In fact, they were even expected, as very small children, to choose “dates” for nap time. One of the authors was very chagrined, because she was almost never chosen for a “date” (keeping in mind that she was a very young child). Sometimes, she had to “make love” with the teacher.

As the children got older, there were unintended pregnancies. However, Berg, who was called Mo by his followers, eventually did make a ruling that there could only be “lovemaking” for girls who were under age 12 or over age 16. There was an emphasis on religion and learning the Bible, and it was coupled with extreme abuse of all kinds. I will warn that the sisters do write about the abuse quite graphically. It was enough to make me very uncomfortable, hence the length of time it took for me to finish this book.

Schooling was haphazard, and discipline was rigidly and violently enforced. The children had very little time to play and were often forced to do hard work, usually as punishment. Sometimes, the children were forced to be silent, and no one was allowed to speak to them. They would wear a sign that said something like “Don’t talk to me. I’m being punished.” At one point, duct tape was used on the mouths of children who were deemed willful. They had few things to call their own, which caused them to want to hang onto things that most people would prefer to discard. The sisters write about how two of them fought over a pair of their father’s underwear and his holey socks, because they missed him so much and thought of anything belonging to him as “novel”.

Anytime cult members were sick, they were assumed to be sinning. They mostly rejected medical care, save for worm medication. The children were lucky if they got one hour with their parent for an hour at a time, one hour a week. Celeste writes that she often missed her hour with her father because she had to make music videos for the cult. The sisters were also forced to change their names on a regular basis. Celeste changed hers at least three times. This was to keep the authorities from finding them.

A 1972 documentary about the Children of God.

Celeste got to know a “friend” named Armi. I’m pretty sure Armi was profiled in a televised special about the Children of God cult, which I watched on Apple TV.

Why is this book so appalling?

Obviously, I think it’s appalling because of the subject matter. It blows my mind that so many children were born into this cult, where they were so horribly abused. Cult members got away with it because they lived in places where authorities tended to look the other way. Although there were communes worldwide, the authors of this book lived in the Philippines, Thailand, India, and Japan. On occasion, they would go to Europe. At one point, Kristina’s mother, who lived in England, managed to “kidnap” her daughter and got her out of the cult. The other two authors stayed in the organization for a bit longer. The three of them are about my age, so they’re in their 40s.

Another reason I think this book is appalling is because I think it needs a massive overhaul. There are so many people involved in this story that it’s hard to keep everyone straight. There’s so much disturbing, distressing, and graphic information, that I found myself skimming a lot. And it’s also over 400 pages, which makes it a very long and convoluted read. I was definitely ready for the book to end, and relieved when the end was finally in sight.

And yet… even though I think this book won’t appeal to a whole lot of readers, I am glad I read it. If anything, it proves just how dangerous religious cults can be, and just how many defenseless people are caught up within them. My heart broke for the authors of this book. They are definitely resilient, and I commend them for sharing their story so candidly and bravely. But a lot of what they’ve shared is just shocking and horrifying. I can see by the Amazon reviews that a lot of people had the same impressions I did.

I think if this book had been streamlined a bit, and the more graphic parts toned down somewhat, Not Without My Sister would be a much better read. On the other hand, I do know more about The Family International now, and there’s something to be said for not sugar coating things. This book simply verifies other stories I’ve read about this cult. Some famous people have been members, which is not surprising, since it started out as a musical ministry. The Phoenix family were members in the 70s, as was the actress, Rose McGowan.

David Berg died in 1994, and his second wife, Karen Zerby (aka Queen Maria) is now in charge. I’m not sure if they’re still doing things the way they did them in the 70s. I sure hope the hell not!

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psychology, true crime

True crime bonanza… Gabrielle Petito, Brian Laundrie, and Alex Murdaugh…

The featured photo is an idyllic spot in Germany… I posted it because both of these cases involve idyllic places where crimes were committed.

This morning, I woke up to the news that it looks like the authorities might have found the body of 22 year old Gabrielle “Gabby” Petito in a “remote, but popular” camping spot in Wyoming. I will admit, I haven’t been following this case very closely, but I would have to be living under a rock not to have seen her young, hopeful, smiling face on the Internet, as worried friends, family, and authorities have been searching for her.

At this point, it looks like her fiance, Brian Laundrie, could have done something terrible to the pretty young woman. She was known for driving around in a tricked out van and vlogging about her experiences, seeing the country. Gabby and Brian were traveling across the United States, documenting their experiences on social media. At one point, they were stopped by the police near Moab, Utah. Gabby was almost cited for domestic violence because Brian had visible injuries, but police ultimately decided to just separate the couple for the night.

Petito’s mother, Nichole Schmidt, says that she and her daughter last communicated by FaceTime on August 23rd or 24th, and there were a few texts after that. Petito and Laundrie were visiting the Grand Teton National Park when Petito disappeared. And now, a body matching her description has been found. Laundrie has evidently lawyered up and isn’t speaking to the police. He’s now back home in Florida. His family members have offered “thoughts and prayers”.

Bill and I were talking a little bit about this case yesterday. While it’s very suspicious that Mr. Laundrie has lawyered up and doesn’t want to talk to the police, we both came to the conclusion that getting a lawyer is probably the smartest thing Laundrie can do, even if he’s innocent. But it sure doesn’t look good for him. He’s now a “person of interest” in a potential murder. It does look pretty certain that the body found in Wyoming might very well be that of Petito’s.

Gabrielle Petito’s case is a compelling story, and one that I would probably avidly follow, if not for the other stuff in the media. Also tracking in the news right now is the very weird story about prominent South Carolina attorney Alex Murdaugh. Mr. Murdaugh, who is 53 years old, comes from a long line of lawyers in the Low Country of South Carolina. A few months ago, he came home to find his wife and son, Paul, murdered. Or, at least that’s the story he was telling.

Recently Murdaugh was sitting in jail, having turned himself in after he admitted to hiring a hit on himself. He allegedly paid a client to kill him, so his older son, Buster, might get a $10 million insurance payout. Murdaugh recently resigned from the law firm that bears his surname because he allegedly embezzled money to pay for his supposed addiction to opiates. Younger son Paul, who was found dead with his mother, had been facing criminal charges at the time of his death. In 2019, Paul Murdaugh caused a drunk boating accident that left a young woman dead.

It’s possible that the drunk boating accident and subsequent murders are related to the senior Murdaugh’s legal troubles. One day after Alex Murdaugh resigned from the law firm, he was shot in the head. He claimed that he was changing a tired when someone opened fire on him. Later, it turned out that Murdaugh had hired a former client named Curtis Edward Smith to kill him for insurance money. Murdaugh mistakenly believed that his son, Buster, would not be able to get the insurance money if Murdaugh took his own life.

The “hit” didn’t go off as planned; the bullet merely grazed the attorney. Smith has admitted to shooting the lawyer for money, and he’s now in trouble. He faces a number of criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit insurance fraud, assault and battery, assisted suicide and possession of drugs.

Murdaugh did go into rehab for his drug problem, prior to turning himself in to the authorities. I would be very surprised if Alex Murdaugh doesn’t go to prison very soon. At this writing, after posting $20,000 bond, Murdaugh has been allowed out of jail temporarily, as he continues drug rehab and awaits his legal fate.

If I were the type of person to write true crime– and maybe in another life I would have been– either of these stories would make for compelling subjects. I think I’d probably be more interested in Murdaugh’s story. It sounds like there’s a fascinating family dynasty history behind the perfect storm that led to where he is right now. I would guess he has had a privileged life up until this point, but for some reason, that wasn’t enough. Next thing you know, he’s hooked on powerful opiates which have ruined his life. How does a high-powered attorney from a long line of high-powered attorneys wind up facing prison? I’m sure greed, a thirst for power, and succumbing to basic instincts have a lot to do with it.

I would also be interested in knowing if his son, Paul’s, troubles were related. They probably were, in some way. Obviously, boating while drunk is irresponsible… but driving a boat when you’re as young as he was indicates a privileged lifestyle… and perhaps an attitude that one is above the law. Of course, I’m speculating. It could be that that the truth is a lot weirder. I’m sure some ambitious writer will eagerly take on researching this case. I’d also be interested in the Murdaugh case because I used to live in South Carolina. I can pretty much picture the type of people the Murdaughs are, having worked in a country club near Columbia.

Adding to the intrigue, of course, is the death of Murdaugh’s long-time housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, back in 2018. Satterfield was 57 years old when her life ended. Murdaugh had said at the time that the housekeeper died after tripping over Murdaugh’s dogs and falling down some stairs. An autopsy did not conclude that Satterfield died due to injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident. And Satterfield’s sons have complained that Mr. Murdaugh never paid them damages after their mother’s death.

Ever since the Murdaugh story broke, I’ve been watching with interest. From the beginning, I thought it sounded like a story that would make for a good true crime book. But now, it seems that everyone’s talking about Gabrielle Petito’s tragic story. I think that story will also end up being covered by a true crime author.

True crime is an interesting genre. It’s based on tragedies that come about from the worst impulses and instincts of humans. It seems immoral to be “entertained” by stories about crimes perpetrated against other humans. And yet, true crime is interesting, because in incorporates so many fields within it. The stories are also true, which means they weren’t necessarily dreamed up by someone with a vivid imagination. I usually find myself drawn to them because I’m interested in psychology, and true crime stories almost always have an element of psychology within them. I’m always intrigued as to how people, often folks who were previously law abiding, end up in so much trouble. And I always wonder what makes them think they will get away with their crimes.

But as I have found out, having blogged about other stories I’ve read about in the news, there’s always a family or friends behind every story. And those people read about their loved ones and are hurt anew. I’ve written innocuous posts about news articles I’ve read on people I don’t know. More than once, someone has contacted me. Sometimes, they’re angry because they think I’m “insensitive”, even if all I’ve done is report what was in the news and offered speculation on what *might* have happened. Other times, people have contacted me, asking me to write more about their loved one’s story. I don’t mind doing that, for the most part. I’m sure it’s frustrating to read what’s in the press with no way to add to it.

In any case, it’ll be interesting to see what comes of these stories. I’m sure there are writers lining up to research these stories and write best selling books about them. I may even read and review them, although I’m finding it harder to read things as quickly as I used to, so I’m more selective about my reading material than I was in the past. I do think Mr. Murdaugh’s story will be one I’ll want to read. Hell, if it were 30 years ago, I would expect Murdaugh’s story to become a televised miniseries. Isn’t it interesting how we in America turn tragedies into televised entertainment for the masses? As my Italian friend Vittorio would put it– weird-o-rama.

Either way… it’s nice not to be writing about the usual 2021 topics today… and now I have to stop writing, because the dogs are bugging me for a walk.

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book reviews, true crime

Repost: A review of Son: A Psychopath and His Victims…

Here’s a reposted book review from May 6, 2016. It appears here as/is.

It’s been a long time since my last fresh book review.  That’s because I’ve spent weeks reading a very long true crime book by the late Jack Olsen.  Originally published in 1984, Son: A Psychopath and His Victims has been made available once again to true crime fans.  At over 500 pages, this book was not a quick read.  I’m happy to be finished with it, although I must admit Olsen spins a compelling tale. 

In this case, Olsen is writing about Fred Harlan Coe, otherwise known as Kevin Coe as well as “the South Hill rapist”, back in the late 1970s and early 80s.  Coe was a clean cut guy who lived in Spokane, Washington and had an unusually enmeshed relationship with his parents, especially his mother.  From 1978 until 1981, Coe victimized women who lived in Spokane.  He was a classic stranger who jumped out of the bushes and caught women unaware, stuffing his hand down their throats, threatening them with knives, and sexually assaulting them.  Fred Harlan Coe had women terrified and police baffled until he was finally captured.  In 1982, he legally changed his name to Kevin Coe.

Kevin Coe’s story is very convoluted.  He had been married to a woman named Jenifer who was alcoholic.  After divorcing Jenifer, who had her own stories about life with Coe, he became involved with his girlfriend, Gini.  Gini was completely unaware of her boyfriend’s proclivities toward rape, though she must have been aware of his poor showing as a working man.  An unsuccessful disc jockey in Las Vegas, Coe moved back to Spokane, where he became an unsuccessful realtor who sometimes used his position to try to gain access to his victims.

Coe had a special fondness for slight women with long, brown hair and pretty eyes.  Most of his victims met that physical standard, though they ranged in age from their early teens to their early fifties.  Coe would often strike while he was jogging.  Surprisingly enough, he wore the same type of clothes most of the time, which gave police some clues as to who he was.  He also often failed to “get it up” when he committed rape. 

Somehow, he would convince friends, family, and lovers to lie for him.  While Olsen’s description of Coe makes me think of him as not very likable, he had a charisma that influenced otherwise good people to do bad things.  Moreover, because Coe is a sociopath, he believed he was smarter than the police.  That erroneous belief eventually led to his downfall.  

What really makes this story even more compelling, though, is the fact that Coe’s mother, Ruth, was arrested three months after her son was convicted of multiple rapes.  Ruth suffered from bipolar disorder and would occasionally get so angry that she’d make threats.  She was so crazed by the idea that her son was headed to prison that she tried to hire a hitman to murder the judge and prosecutor.  Instead of finding a “legit” hitman, she tried to hire a police officer.  Ruth Coe was sentenced to twenty years in prison, all suspended, ten years parole, and one year in the jail of her choice. 

Coe’s case was eventually retried because many of his victims had been hypnotized before they identified him.  He was freed on bail for a year preceding the new trial.  In 1985, Coe was convicted again and sentenced to life plus 55 years in prison.   

As recently as 2008, Coe was still a suspect in dozens of unsolved rapes in the Spokane area.  He has been diagnosed with personality disorder not otherwise specified with narcissistic and antisocial traits and was committed indefinitely to the Special Commitment Center at McNeil Island in Washington state. 

I think Jack Olsen did a very thorough job covering this case, although the book took a very long time to read.  I have read several of Olsen’s books and most of them have been a bit of a struggle for me, though he was a very well regarded true crime author.  I don’t think he has quite the gift for storytelling as, say, Ann Rule or Kathryn Casey. Or maybe he’s not as consistent to me as Rule and Casey have been. I notice that I liked Olsen’s writing better in the book, Give the Boy a Gun.  

Nevertheless, Son: A Psychopath and His Victims is definitely a bizarre story.  Some readers will be thrilled by this book and, according to Amazon.com, many people obviously were.  Count me among those who felt this book was far too long.  I felt like I’d never finish it, even though Coe’s story was one worth writing.

I think I’d give it 3.5 stars on a five star scale.  I read this on Kindle.  It includes photos at the end of the book.

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book reviews

Repost: Pat Conroy’s last words– A Lowcountry Heart…

Here’s a book review from 2016. I am reposting it as/is. I really miss Pat Conroy, but I’m glad he’s missed out on the shitshow of COVID. Maybe it’s time to revisit some of his books, especially since they make me remember “home”.

2016 has been a horrible year to be famous.  So many great people have died, including Pat Conroy, who was (and still is) one of my favorite authors.  As much as I loved his novels, I probably enjoyed his non-fiction works much more.  In the wake of Conroy’s death last March, his latest book A Lowcountry Heart: Reflections on a Writing Life, was published in late October.  I have been reading this last work and remembering Conroy.

A Lowcountry Heart is basically a collection of Conroy’s blog posts, speeches, interviews and even letters he wrote.  It also includes tributes from friends, as well as his wife, Cassandra King, and the eulogy delivered at his funeral, which was open to the public.  I was one of his blog subscribers, so I had read some of the ones that were included in his last book.  Still, it was good to have the posts all in one volume.  I also appreciated the other aspects of this book, the speeches and letters Conroy penned.  I was particularly impressed by a letter to the editor Conroy wrote to a newspaper in Charleston, West Virginia after he received word that two of his books, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, had been banned by a high school.  A high school student had written to him in great distress and he went to bat for her.

During his lifetime, it wasn’t uncommon for Pat Conroy to take up a cause.  I remember in the mid 1990s, when female college student Shannon Faulkner was forcing Conroy’s alma mater, The Citadel, to admit women.  She faced scorn and derision from many people.  Conroy very publicly and enthusiastically supported her.  Ultimately, Faulkner was unable to hack it at The Citadel, but she did help make history and change the long single sex traditions at both The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute.

While I can’t say that books of essays and writings usually thrill me, knowing that these are Conroy’s last remarks make this final book worthy reading.  A Lowcountry Heart will not be my favorite Conroy book.  I think that honor goes to My Losing Season or perhaps The Death of Santini.  But it will remain a treasured part of my library as I remember one of the few fiction authors who never failed to make me laugh and appreciate the beauty of language.  What A Lowcountry Heart offers is yet another intimate look at the man behind the lush, vivid, colorful language so prevalent in Conroy’s novels.  

Some of the blog posts included in this book are particularly entertaining.  I enjoyed reading about how he became acquainted with his personal trainer, Mina, a Japanese woman who spoke little English and did her best to help Conroy reclaim his body.  Sadly, pancreatic cancer took him anyway, but Mina no doubt helped make those last months healthier.

I was lucky enough to get to hear Conroy speak when I was a student at the University of South Carolina.  He was actually filling in for Kurt Vonnegut, another favorite author of mine, who had just had a house fire and wasn’t able to attend.  Vonnegut died not long after I heard Conroy speak in his place.  I remember I had a healthcare finance exam the next day, which I ended up getting a D on.  I probably would have gotten a D anyway, so it was worth going to see Pat Conroy.  I will always treasure that memory, even if I didn’t get to meet the man in person.  He was every bit as real as he seems in his words.

I think I’d give this last volume four out of five stars, mainly because it feels a bit unfinished.  I recognize A Lowcountry Heart as one last gift to Conroy’s admirers.  I am grateful to have it available as a last goodbye from one of the South’s best writers.

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