The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of All Over but the Shoutin’ continues his personal history of the Deep South with an evocation of his mother’s childhood in the Appalachian foothills during the Great Depression, and the magnificent story of the man who raised her.
Charlie Bundrum was a roofer, a carpenter, a whiskey-maker, a fisherman who knew every inch of the Coosa River, made boats out of car hoods and knew how to pack a wound with brown sugar to stop the blood. He could not read, but he asked his wife, Ava, to read him the paper every day so he would not be ignorant. He was a man who took giant steps
in rundown boots, a true hero whom history would otherwise have overlooked.
In the decade of the Great Depression, Charlie moved his family twenty-one times, keeping seven children one step ahead of the poverty and starvation that threatened them from every side. He worked at the steel mill when the steel was rolling, or for a side of bacon or a bushel of peaches when it wasn’t. He paid the doctor who delivered his fourth daughter, Margaret—Bragg’s mother—with a jar of whiskey. He understood the finer points of the law as it applied to poor people and drinking men; he was a banjo player and a buck dancer who worked off fines when life got a little sideways, and he sang when he was drunk, where other men fought or cussed. He had a talent for living.
His children revered him. When he died, cars lined the blacktop for more than a mile.
Rick Bragg has built a soaring monument to the grandfather he never knew—a father who stood by his family in hard times and left a backwoods legend behind—in a book that blazes with his love for his family, and for a particular stretch of dirt road along the Alabama-Georgia border. A powerfully intimate piece of American history as it was experienced by the working people of the Deep South, a glorious record of a life of character, tenacity and indomitable joy and an unforgettable tribute to a vanishing culture, Ava’s Man is Rick Bragg at his stunning best.
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The same fierce pride and love that animated All Over but the Shoutin' glow in Rick Bragg's new book. In fact, he informs us in the prologue that it was the readers of his bestselling 1997 memoir about his mother's struggle to raise three sons out of dire poverty who told him what he had to write about next. "People asked me where I believed my own momma's heart and backbone came from ... they said I short-shrifted them in the first book." Bragg sets out to make amends in this heartfelt biography of his maternal grandfather, Charlie Bundrum, who with wife Ava nurtured seven children through hard times that never seemed to ease in rural Alabama and Georgia. "He was a tall, bone-thin man who worked with nails in his teeth and a roofing hatchet in a fist as hard as Augusta brick," writes Bragg, "who inspired backwoods legend and the kind of loyalty that still makes old men dip their heads respectfully when they say his name." Charlie's children adored him so much that 40 years after his premature death in 1958 at age 51, Bragg's elderly aunts and mother began to cry when asked about him. Chronicling Charlie's hardscrabble life in the flinty, expressive cadences of working-class Southern speech, Bragg depicts a rugged individual who would find no place in the homogenized New South. The marvelous stories collected from various relatives--Charlie facing down a truckload of mean drunks with a hammer, hatchet, and 12-gauge shotgun, or brewing illegal white whiskey in the woods ("He never sold a sip that he did not test with his own liver")--are not just snapshots of a colorful character. They're also the author's tribute to an oral culture with tenacious roots and powerful significance in the American South. --Wendy SmithFrom the Back Cover:
“A lovely book, with a certain gritty grandeur . . . This is a worthy successor to All Over but the Shoutin’.” —Larry McMurtry
“Rick Bragg has written a powerful and poignant book about his kin, the kind of people we hear about too seldom . . . At the end I shared Rick’s pride and awe of what his family had endured.” —Tom Brokaw
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