Set in 1969 and 1989, South of Broad is essentially a love letter to Charleston. It's a sweeping story of a set of unlikely friends that meet in high school in 1969 and are still friends in 1989, although given the asshole factor in some of these characters you certainly wonder why. Mixed in is a bit of a stalker thriller, and a big twist at the end that you'll see coming from hundreds of pages away.
Unfortunately, the city of Charleston is probably the best developed character in the book. There are chunks of brilliant writing in the book - the love story between Leo's parents, the SF trip, and Hurricane Hugo in Charleston. However the characters are more like caricatures than real people. We get the dutiful Catholic would rather stay in a miserable marriage, because Catholicism. We get the privileged rich girl who would rather stay married in her mansion to her philandering husband than find happiness, and we have the flamboyant sex obsessed gay gay who has AIDS, because of course he does.
It's not a bad book. It's a fast paced story and I enjoyed reading it. But I did skim a lot of the multi-page dialog, because nobody talks that way. It was okay in the 1969 setting, but 40 year old married couples just don't talk and act like these 40 year old married couples in the book. It was so unrealistic as to be distracting.
I read it primarily because Anthony Bourdain's website recommended reading it before visiting Charleston, and we are visiting Charleston after Christmas. I think our hotel is just North of Broad, so I'm looking forward to exploring the area and connecting it with the book.