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Cannonball Read V: Ava’s Man by Rick Bragg

By Valyruh | Book Reviews | October 30, 2013 | Comments ()


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Ava’s Man is a beautiful book, compellingly written with authenticity and love and wit, about the grandfather Rick Bragg never knew but who was a larger-than-life figure in every way. Charlie Bundrum couldn’t read, was often two steps ahead of the law, was a moonshiner and a drinker, and dragged his family from state to state and shack to shack, but he loved his wife, adored his children, was a rock that everyone could lean on, and worked himself to the bone to keep his family housed and fed during the years of the Great Depression. He was passionate, curious, funny, fearless, a banjo picker and a dancer, a roofer, a carpenter, a fisherman, a defender of the weak, and a genuine salt-of-the-earth hero who brought out hundreds from miles around to revere him at his funeral.

This is actually the sequel to Bragg’s Pulitzer Prize-winning All Over But the Shoutin’, written about his grandmother Ava whom he knew as a child. But despite the success of his first book, Bragg realized that he had really only told half the story. I made the mistake of reading his second book first, but l have the delicious anticipation of reading his first book next and can’t wait. Bragg gives us a unique view from the Appalachian foothills of the deep South, where hardscrabble life didn’t have to mean hard people. I had only recently finished reading Faulkner’s depressingly grim As I Lay Dying, and am grateful to Bragg for restoring my faith that being from the rural south didn’t have to mean being like Anse Bundren and his family.

As Bragg writes at the beginning of his book, “He died in the spring of 1958, one year before I was born. I have never forgiven him for that.” So what the author did was cull the family scrapbooks, surviving memories, and anything else he could to piece together the story of a man so beloved that people couldn’t talk about for him decades after his death because of the pain of remembering the loss. Wouldn’t we all like to be remembered like that?

This review is part of the volunteer Cannonball Read V. Read all about it , and find more of Valyruh’s reviews on the group blog.

(Note: Any revenue generated from purchases made through the amazon.com affiliate links
in this this review will be donated in entirety to the American Cancer Society.)







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • General Bluth

    Rick Bragg is a fantastic guy. He was my professor at the University of Alabama. His long-form magazine writing class was a damn revelation. A tough teacher, but he certainly made me a better writer.

  • Wigamer

    Read The Prince of Frogtown, too. Good stuff.

  • Pentadactyl

    Read the pair of them for high school and loved them. Was really sad to see all that mess with the NYT go down. Bragg crafts some really stunningly beautiful pieces of writing. His Haiti stuff was heartbreaking.

  • Captain_Tuttle

    I loved Bragg's first book - this is definitely on my list now. Thanks for the review!

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