Form and Content
The Prince of Tides begins with a prologue and ends with an epilogue that frame this three-generational family saga. The story’s opening setting is located in the deceptively placid marshland and coastal islands near the fictional town of Colleton, South Carolina. The pace of this long, complex novel at times moves as slowly as the gradual ebb of the tides in the sleepy, rural South. At other times, especially when the setting shifts to New York City, the story’s pace is punctuated with the frantic and relentless recollections of the violence and calamities that have tainted and tortured the Wingo family.
Tom Wingo, the first-person narrator of the Wingo family history, is the family’s voice. In contrast to his older brother, Luke, and his twin sister, Savannah, Tom has survived childhood and adolescence traumas of emotional and physical parental abuse. A college graduate and churchgoing citizen, he appears to be the sole member to escape the inherent madness of his family lineage.
Tom introduces his parents, whose lives have been interrupted and scarred by poverty, family separations during World War II, and cycles of family dysfunction. His father, a shrimp boat operator whom Tom maintains would have been a splendid father had it not been for his violent treatment of his wife and children, was himself abused as a child. Tom describes his mother as a beautiful woman, talented at weaving words descriptive of natural beauty, but mum about a host of horrific family secrets.
The first chapter of this pain-filled family memoir begins like a Greek epic, in the middle of things, with a phone call to Tom from his mother. Savannah, who fled the family chaos and sought refuge and family anonymity in New York...
(The entire section is 715 words.)