Army veteran Lynn Seldon is the author of “Carolina’s Ring,” a coming-of-age story about relationships and sacrifice.

Army veteran Lynn Seldon is the author of “Carolina’s Ring,” a coming-of-age story about relationships and sacrifice. (Lynn Seldon)

Pat Conroy, who wrote “The Great Santini,” “The Prince of Tides” and many other novels, was known for his advocacy of writers whose work, like his own, is marked by the indelible culture of the American South and often infused with military themes. Conroy’s legacy, aside from a long list of acclaimed novels, includes an impressive cadre of writers personally mentored by the late author.

Army veteran Lynn Seldon is one such wordsmith, and his latest novel “Carolina’s Ring” is one such tale. This coming-of-age story is about the sacrifices required to maintain loving relationships of all kinds – brotherly, motherly, familial and romantic. The book also illustrates that the value of those relationships is worth the price paid, even when the cost is high indeed.

“Carolina’s Ring” follows the lives of twin brothers, Alf and Ben, and the girl next door, Carolina – all born on the same day in 1981. Narration revolves among the three, with each telling the story from his or her point of view. While this device sometimes creates repetitive passages, it also provides the reader with a three-dimensional perspective of the intertwined, even tangled lives of the triad.

The three grow up as playmates and best friends, but as readers might expect, their friendship becomes lopsided when Carolina falls in love with one brother to the dismay of the other. Less expected is the way the friends grow in their complicated relationships as they grow into adulthood. The admirable qualities of each and the character they display in the face of hardship and heartbreak are among the charms of the story Seldon has created.

Alf and Ben graduate from high school in 1999, and both choose to attend a military academy, but not the same one. Ben goes to the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., while Alf heads off to the Citadel in Charleston, S.C. Carolina chooses the University of North Carolina. Military readers, particularly graduates of military academies, will appreciate the way Seldon uses the rigors of that life to highlight the flaws and strengths of his characters.

Despite the similarities of their school experiences, it’s soon clear that miles are not the only things separating the once-inseparable brothers. The rift is exacerbated by their feelings for Carolina, but readers will suspect Alf’s sudden shift away from his formerly open-hearted demeanor is caused by more than romantic rivalry.

Seldon, a graduate of VMI, draws on his school experience to tell the brothers’ stories, depicting the stringent demands of life at a military academy. The timeframe of his novel, on the cusp of the 21st century, is well placed to include watershed historical moments such as 9/11 and moments of change in military culture.

Obliquely but consequentially, this includes the complications created by the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, in place until in 2011 in the military and in military academies. The advent of female students at private military academies also comes into play, as Ben’s classmate and friend, Virginia, is among the first wave of female graduates at VMI. The author name-checks real women who broke the gender barrier, including Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, the first woman to graduate from the Citadel in 1999. Ben and Alf, in their individual chapters, measure their own struggles against the greater challenges their female classmates overcome.

Conroy gets several mentions as well, including his 2001 commencement speech at the Citadel, his alma mater, where he famously invited the entire graduating class to his funeral.

All these historical and cultural elements, however, must take a back seat to the events of the characters’ lives, as “Carolina’s Ring” moves toward an unexpectedly twisty ending. The book is the second volume of a trilogy and follows “Virginia’s Ring,” published in 2014.

Seldon and his wife, Cele, who live in Beaufort, S.C., are food and travel writers, and he brings that expertise to bear in his novel. Throughout the story, Seldon’s knowledge of the Southern locales around VMI and the Citadel, particularly the gastronomic landscape, are evident. Anyone who has been stationed near these areas will recognize the names of many favorite eateries past and present.

In “Carolina’s Ring,” the author sets the table for the reader with a story of love and family intrigue, flavored by military experience and life in the South.

Terri Barnes is the editor of multiple award-winning books and the author of “Spouse Calls: Messages from a Military Life,” a book based on her life as a military spouse and her long-running column in Stars and Stripes.

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