I thought that this novel started out well. I really liked the main character, Leo King, who was doing his best to succeed despite the difficulties in his life: finding his older brother who committed suicide, having a mental breakdown afterward, taking the fall for someone else's cocaine, and having a very difficult and demanding mother who is also his principal. Leo starts out without any friends but, after being assigned by his mother to take cookies to the new neighbors, meet with the new black football coach to help integrate the team (this is 1969 South Carolina), meet the new orphans who will be attending his school, and meet the society kids who were kicked out of their school for drugs and now must attend Leo's school (all in the same day for some reason), he now has a whole group of friends. I thought at this point that the book would be about their friendship growing while they transitioned from high school to college and would also be about Leo's relationship with his mother. Nope. For some reason, Pat Conroy jumps ahead 20 years and shows us just how messed up some of them are. Leo remains a saint however, much much too good. Their lives are too soap-opera-ish, too many unbelievable things get in the way of what could have been a nice story. The profanity was way over the top too and the sexual comments and violence were awful. There are no redeeming qualities left in this book. Rated R.