by Rick Bragg
I fell in love with Rick Bragg's writing after reading All Over but the Shouting. In it the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist wrote about his childhood in the rural hills of Alabama. In Ava’s Man he takes readers back there to tell the story of Charlie, his grandfather.
From the first pages I was completely captivated. His style of writing clicks so beautifully for me. He's writing nonfiction, but he's doing in an in a way that weaves a beautiful tale of the depression era South. You feel like you're there on the riverbank next to Charlie setting trout lines.
We follow Charlie and his wife Ava and their many children from one tiny Alabama and Georgia town to another. You feel the heartbreak when a child is sick, you hammer nails into roofs in the southern heat, and you sip moonshine when the day is done. By the time you finish you have as much admiration for Bragg's grandfather as he did himself. Charlie was a different class of man. He raised a family not because it was his job, but because it was his passion and his love.
BOTTOM LINE: The incredible thing about Bragg’s work is that he makes an ordinary man extraordinary. He makes the reader fall in love with Charlie by unfolding his life through the eyes of his children and neighbors. Charlie was a legend in his community because he was a good man who everyone loved and in the hands of a talented writer that’s all the story you need.
“It didn’t strike the travelers as unusual to see such a large cemetery around such a tiny church, not everybody kneels, but everybody dies.”