Maybe you've seen the movie version of Pat Conroy's "The Prince of Tides" starring Nick Nolte and Babara Streisand. Maybe you liked it, maybe you didn't. I saw it after I read the book. I'm afraid that's generally a bad thing for me to do. While the movie does get in most of the important aspects of the novel, it does not being to capture the emotion of the novel. Conroy's book has it's flaws, to be sure, but it is incredibly gripping and it's descriptions of South Carolina's Low Country are amazingly vivid.
Publisher's Weekly has this summary: Henry Wingo is a shrimper who fishes the seas off the South Carolina coast and regularly squanders what little money he amasses in farcical business schemes; his beautiful wife, Lila, is both his victim and a manipulative and guilt-inflicting mother. The story is narrated by one of the children, Tom Wingo, a former high school teacher and coach, now out of work after a nervous breakdown. Tom alternately recalls his growing-up years on isolated Melrose Island, then switches to the present in Manhattan, where his twin sister and renowned poet, Savannah, is recovering from a suicide attempt. One secret at the heart of this tale is the fate of their older brother Luke; we know he is dead, but the circumstances are slowly revealed. Also kept veiled is ``what happened on the island that day'' a grisly scene of horror, rape and carnage that eventually explains much of the sorrow, pain and emotional alienation endured by the Wingo siblings.
I read this before I had children, when I was still young, and I just could not imagine parents treating their children the way Henry and Lila handle their children. I just had to keep telling myself that it was just a story. I'm old enough now to know that things like this happen to children every day. But I still cannot understand why.