Ava's Man

Ava's Man

by Rick Bragg

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375724442
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/13/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 91,765
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.98(h) x 0.55(d)
Lexile: 1150L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Rick Bragg is the best-selling author of All Over but the Shoutin’ and Somebody Told Me. A national correspondent for the The New York Times, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 1996. He lives in New Orleans.

Hometown:

New Orleans, Louisiana

Date of Birth:

July 26, 1959

Place of Birth:

Possum Trot, Alabama

Education:

Attended Jacksonville State University for six months in 1970; attended Harvard University, 1992-1993

Read an Excerpt

From Chapter One:
The beatin’ of Blackie Lee

The foothills of the Appalachians
the 1930s

Ava met him at a box-lunch auction outside Gadsden, Alabama, when she was barely fifteen, when a skinny boy in freshly washed overalls stepped from the crowd of bidders, pointed to her and said, “I got one dollar, by God.” In the evening they danced in the grass to a fiddler and banjo picker, and Ava told all the other girls she was going to marry that boy someday, and she did. But to remind him that he was still hers, after the cotton rows aged her and the babies came, she had to whip a painted woman named Blackie Lee.

Maybe it isn’t quite right to say that she whipped her. To whip somebody, down here, means there was an altercation between two people, and somebody, the one still standing, won. This wasn’t that. This was a beatin’, and it is not a moment that glimmers in family history. But of all the stories I was told of their lives together, this one proves how Ava loved him, and hated him, and which emotion won out in the end.

Charlie Bundrum was what women here used to call a purty man, a man with thick, sandy hair and blue eyes that looked like something you would see on a rich woman’s bracelet. His face was as thin and spare as the rest of him, and he had a high-toned, chin-in-the-air presence like he had money, but he never did. His head had never quite caught up with his ears, which were still too big for most human beings, but the women of his time were not particular as to ears, I suppose.

He was also a man who was not averse to stopping off at the beer joint, now and again, and that was where he encountered a traveling woman with crimson lipstick and silk stockings named Blackie Lee. People called her Blackie because of her coal-black hair, and when she told my granddaddy that she surely was parched and tired and sure would ’preciate a place to wash her clothes and rest a spell before she moved on down the road, he told her she was welcome at his house.

They were living in north Georgia at that time, outside Rome. Ava and the five children—there was only James, William, Edna, Juanita and Margaret then—were a few miles away, working in Newt Morrison’s cotton field. Charlie always took in strays—dogs, men and women, who needed a place—but Blackie was a city woman and pretty, too, which set the stage for mayhem.

It all might have gone unnoticed. Blackie Lee might’ve washed her clothes, set a spell and then just moved along, if that was all that she was after. But we’ll never know. We’ll never know because she had the misfortune to hang her stockings on Ava Bundrum’s clothesline in front of God and everybody.

Miles away from there, Ava was hunched over in the cotton field, dragging a heavy sack, her fingers and thumbs on fire from the needle-sharp stickers on the cotton bolls. Newt Morrison’s daughter, Sis, came up alongside of her in the field, one row over, and lit the fuse.

“Ava,” said Sis, who had driven past Ava and Charlie’s house earlier that day, “did you get you some silk stockings?”

Ava said no she had not, what foolishness, and just picked on.

“Well,” Sis said, “is your sister Grace visitin’ you?”

No, Ava said, if Grace had come to visit, she would have written or sent word.

“Well,” said Sis, “I drove past y’all’s place and seen some silk stockings on the line, and I thought they must have been Grace’s, ’cause she’s the only one I could think of that would have silk stockings.”

Ava said well, maybe it was Grace, and picked on. Grace had wed a rich man and had silk stockings and a good car and may have come by, just on a whim. That must be it. Had to be.

Edna, then only a little girl, said her momma just kept her back bowed and her face down for a few more rows, then jerked bolt upright as if she had been stung by a bee, snatched the cotton sack from her neck and flung it, heavy as it was, across two rows.

Then she just started walking, and the children, puzzled, hurried after her. Even as an old woman Ava could walk most people plumb into the ground, and as a young woman she just lowered her head and swung her arms and kicked up dust as she powered down the dirt road to home.

When she swung into the yard, sometime later, it was almost dark and Blackie Lee was on the porch, cooling herself. Ava stopped and drew a breath and just looked at her for a moment, measuring her for her coffin. Then she stomped over to the woodpile and picked up the ax.

About that time it must have dawned on Blackie Lee who this young woman was, who these big-eyed children were, and she ran inside, put the latch down on the door and began to speak to Jesus.

Ava just stood there, breathing hard, her long hair half in and half out of her dew rag, and announced that the woman could either open the door and take her beatin’ or take her beatin’ after Ava hacked down her own door. And “you might not want me to walk in thar, with a’ ax in my hand.” Blackie Lee, hysterical, unlatched the door and stepped back, and Ava, as she promised, dropped the ax and stepped inside.

She might not have beat the woman quite so bad if it had not been for the dishpan. It had dirty water in it, from that woman’s clothes. No one, no one, washed their clothes in Ava’s dishpan.

Edna stood at the door, peeking.

Listen to her:

“Momma beat her all through the house. She beat her out onto the porch, beat her out into the yard and beat her down to the road, beat her so hard that her hands swelled up so big she couldn’t fit ’em in her apron pocket. Then she grabbed aholt of her with one hand and used the other hand to flag down a car that was comin’, and she jerked open that car door and flung that woman in and told the man drivin’ that car to get her ‘on outta here.’ And that man said, ‘Yes, ma’am,’ and drove off with Blackie Lee.”

Charlie was at work when this happened, which was very fortunate, so fortunate that, even now, his children swear that there was God’s hand in it. Even with temptation at his house, he went off to work, and made a living, and it saved him, it saved everything. A weak man would have just laid out that day, and if he had been home Ava would have killed him dead as Julius Caesar.

Ava and the five children went back to Newt Morrison’s to spend the night. Newt was distant kin and Ava knew she was welcome there. But first she walked inside her house and threw that dishpan out into the yard as far as she could.

That night, Charlie showed up to take them home. And Ava lit into him so hard and so fast that Charlie lost one of his shoes in the melee and had to fight from an uneven platform, which is bad when you have what seems to be a badger crawling and spittin’ around your head. They fought, Edna said, all the way down the hall, crashing hard into the wall, making a hellish racket and scaring everybody in there to death. Children screamed and dogs barked and Charlie just kept on hollerin’ over and over, “Dammit, Ava. Quit.” Finally they crashed onto a bed, and into the room walked the old man, Newt, barefoot, one of his overall galluses on and one off. Newt thought that it was Charlie who was beating his wife to death, instead of the other way around, and all he knew was that this boy, Charlie, kin or not, had invaded his home, rattled the walls and frightened his family.

Newt, stooped and gray and gnarly, was much too old to fistfight a man in his own house. So he reached into his overalls pocket, fished out his pocketknife and flicked out a blade long enough to cut watermelon.

Ava took one look at that knife and flung her body across her husband, to shield him. Then she looked up at Newt, and when she spoke there were spiders and broken glass in her voice.

“Don’t you touch him,” she hissed.

* * *

Everybody has a moment like it. If they never did, they never did love nobody, truly. People who have lived a long, long time say it, so it must be so.

* * *

They never spoke about it. They never had another moment like it again. They fought—my Lord, did they fight—for thirty years, until the children were mostly grown and gone. But they stuck. You go through as much as they did, you stick. I have seen old people do it out of spite, as if growing old together was some sweet revenge. Charlie and Ava did not get to grow old together. What they got was life condensed, something richer and sweeter and—yes—more bitter and violent, life with the dull moments just boiled or scorched away.

She never bowed to him, and he never made her, and they lived that way, in the time they had.

Every now and then, they would jab a little. She would stand over her new dishpan and recite a little poem as she gently rinsed her iron skillet and biscuit pans:

Single life is a happy life

Single life is a pleasure

I am single and no man’s wife

And no man can control me

He would pretend not to hear. And bide his time, to get even.

“Daddy,” Margaret asked him once, when she was still a little girl, “how come you haven’t bought us a radio?”

Charlie would just shake his head.

“Hon, we don’t need no radio,” he would say, and then he would point one of his long, bony fingers at Ava. “I already got a walkie-talkie.”

And on and on it went, them pretending, maybe out of pride, that they did not love each other, and need each other, as much as they did.

As time dragged on they would break out the banjo—Charlie was hell-hot on a banjo—and the guitar, which Ava played a lifetime. And in the light of an old kerosene lantern, as the children looked on from their beds, they would duel.

Charlie would do “Doin’ My Time”—his commentary on marriage—and grin while she stared hard at him from behind her spectacles:

On this ol’ rock pile

With a ball and chain

They call me by a number

Not my name

Gotta do my time

Lord, Lord

Gotta do my time


Then Ava would answer with “Wildwood Flower” or something like it:

I’ll sing and I’ll dance

And my laugh shall be gay

I’ll charm every heart

And the crowd I will sway

I’ll live yet to see him

Regret the dark hour

When he won and neglected

This frail wildwood flower


And Charlie would sing back at her with another song, about being on a chain gang, or doing time in a Yankee prison, or “All the Good Times Are Past and Gone”:

I wish to the Lord

I’d never been born

Or “Knoxville Girl”:

We went to take an evening walk

About a mile from town

I picked a stick up off the ground

And knocked that fair girl down


But it always ended in dancing, somehow. He would beat those banjo strings and she would buck-dance around the kitchen, her skirts in her hands, her heavy shoes smacking into the boards, and the children would laugh, because it is impossible not to when your momma acts so young.

* * *

Much, much later, when she had passed seventy, she still played and she still sang but she could not really see how to tune her guitar, and her hand shook too much to do it right, anyway. She would miss a lick now and then, and she would always frown at what time had done to her. But she never forgot the words to “Wildwood Flower.”

I’ll think of him never

I’ll be wild and gay

I’ll cease this wild weeping,

Drive sorrow away

But I wake from my dreaming

My idol was clay

My visions of love

Have all vanished away


* * *

It didn’t all start there, of course, with the beating of that unfortunate woman. The beginning of their story goes way, way back, beyond them, even beyond the first Bundrum to drift here, to these green foothills that straddle the Alabama-Georgia border. In it, I found not only the beginnings of a family history but a clue to our character.

All my life, I have heard the people of the foothills described as poor, humble people, and I knew that was dead wrong. My people were, surely, poor, but they were seldom humble. Charlie sure wasn’t, and his daddy wasn’t, and I suspect that his daddy’s daddy wasn’t humble a bit. And Ava, who married into that family, was no wilting flower, either. A little humility, a little meekness of spirit, might have spared us some pain, over the years, but the sad truth is, it’s just not in us. With the exception of my own mother, maybe, it never was.

For a family so often poor, we have, for a hundred years or more, refused to adapt our character very much. But then, if we had been willing to change just a little bit, we never would have gotten here in the first place.

We are here because our ancestors were too damn hardheaded to adapt, to assimilate. We are here because someone with a name very much like Bundrum picked a fight with the King of France, and the Church of Rome.


Reading Group Guide

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“Grab[s] you from the first sentence . . . [and] stays with you long after you put it down. . . . It is hard to think of a writer who reminds us more forcefully and wonderfully of what people and families are all about.” —The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s reading of Ava’s Man, Rick Bragg’s brilliant story of his grandfather’s unique life, the follow-up to his bestselling and deeply affectionate portrait of his mother, All Over but the Shoutin’.

1) In the prologue, Rick Bragg wonders about his grandfather, “What kind of man was this . . . who is so beloved, so missed, that the mere mention of his death would make [his family] cry forty-two years after he was preached into the sky?” [p. 9] How does the book answer this question? What kind of man is Charlie Bundrum? Why does his memory evoke such powerful emotions in those who knew him?

2) Bragg says that he wrote this story “for a lot of reasons,” one of which was “to give one more glimpse into a vanishing culture” [p. 13]. How does he create a vivid picture of that culture? What does he admire about it? How is it different from “the new South”? What other reasons compelled Bragg to write about a grandfather he never knew?

3) Bragg says that Charlie Bundrum was “blessed with that beautiful, selective morality that we Southerners are famous for. Even as a boy, he thought people who steal were trash, real trash. . . . Yet he saw absolutely nothing wrong with downing a full pint of likker . . . before engaging in a fistfight that sometimes required hospitalization” [p. 53]. What kind of moral code does Charlie live by? Are his frequent acts of violence justifiable? In what sense can Charlie be called a hero?

4) Charlie is a man of great physical strength and courage, but what instances of kindness, generosity, and caring balance the violence and recklessness in his life? How does the inclusion of this kind of behavior in Bragg’s description create a richer and fuller portrait of the man?

5) In speaking of his grandfather’s legacy, Bragg says, “A man like Charlie Bundrum doesn’t leave much else, not title or property, not even letters in the attic. There’s just stories, all told second- and thirdhand, as long as somebody remembers” [p. 18]. What is the value of preserving the kind of stories that Bragg gathers in Ava’s Man?

6) Ava’s Man is filled with dramatic confrontations and vivid scenes. What episodes stand out the most? What do these episodes reveal about the character of the Bundrum family?

7) In considering his grandfather’s drinking, Bragg writes, “I am not trying to excuse it. He did things that he shouldn’t have. I guess it takes someone who has outlived a mean drunk to appreciate a kind one” [p. 133]. What does this passage suggest about Bragg’s personal stake in reconnecting with his grandfather? What kind of portrait does he paint of his own father in Ava’s Man?

8) Charlie Bundrum “was a man who did the things more civilized men dream they could, who beat one man half to death for throwing a live snake at his son, who shot a large woman with a .410 shotgun when she tried to cut him with a butcher knife, who beat the hell out of two worrisome Georgia highway patrolmen and threw them headfirst out the front door of a beer joint called the Maple on the Hill” [p. 8]. In what ways is Charlie free from the constraints of society? What is the cost of this freedom? Is Bragg right in thinking that Charlie’s way of living is something that more civilized men envy?

9) Bragg writes that Ava could have had her sister Grace’s life, a life of relative wealth and comfort, of fine clothes, good food, and travel, instead of a life of rented houses, poverty, and hard labor in the cotton fields. “She could have hated her life,” Bragg admits [p. 153]. Why doesn’t she? What does Charlie give her that other men cannot? What kind of woman is she?

10) Why does Charlie take in Hootie? What does this reveal about his character? What does Hootie bring out in Charlie?

11) Bragg writes that Charlie “could charm a bird off a wire” [p. 45]. What are the charms of Bragg’s own storytelling style? Where else does he use colorful similes? In what ways is his narrative voice perfectly suited to his subject matter?

12) What does Ava’s Man reveal about how the Great Depression affected people in the Deep South, especially those who lived in the foothills? How did it affect the Bundrums specifically? How are they treated by landlords, sheriffs, and others in positions of power?

13) For centuries, recorded history has largely been the account of those who have had the greatest impact on world events. Why is the history of a man like Charlie Bundrum important? In what ways does it offer a door into American history and culture that more conventional histories cannot provide?

14) In the epilogue, Bragg argues that when compared with the new South, Charlie Bundrum seems larger than life, because of “his complete lack of shame. He was not ashamed of his clothes, his speech, his life. He not only thrived, he gloried in it” [p. 248]. What accounts for Charlie’s pride? Why is Bragg so proud of him? What does Ava’s Man suggest about the way in which inner character is more important than external circumstances?

Interviews

Exclusive Author Essay
It took me less than two years to write about 40 chapters of a book about my grandfather's life, but almost six months to write just one chapter about his death. I wondered about that, since I had never seen him, never heard his voice. I had lived 41 years and never even missed him, not one day. How could I? He died the year before I was born. Then, a friend of mine explained it to me. "You made him," she explained. "It must have been hard to kill him off."

It was hard. For 18 months I had stared at the keyboard and pounded out his personality, his wit and his temper, his love for fishing and whiskey and babies and an old hermit named Hootie Clines. I re-created his relationship with my grandmother, Ava, and wrote on and on about his children and their love for him. I described his fights with the law and bad men, and retold his own stories -- though never as good as he could have done, if he had lived.

I did all that while laughing out loud, while grinning like an idiot. How great, how grand, for a 41-year-old man to get to build himself a grandfather, to give flesh and blood and heart and soul to a legend, a ghost, a man of dust and bones. With every line I saw him take shape in my mind's eye, saw him ball up his fists and stand like stone between his family and trouble, saw him break their hearts with every furtive pull he took on a jar of moonshine whiskey.

But even in the saddest parts of his life, there was dignity and decency and character, so that I began to look forward to the time I spent with my notebooks and journals and scraps of paper, where I had written down his life and times in countless interviews with his children and others who remembered him.

I watched him grow up and I watched him take a wife and I watched him lift babies, one by one by one, into his arms. I watched him fade from his youth into middle age, watched him reach for grandbabies now, even watched him find the Lord.

Then, one day, it was time for him to die.

And I just couldn't do it.

I sat and stared at that keyboard, now suddenly hateful, and no matter how hard I tried to write about his death and his funeral, I could not. His children, who loved him so much that they had blocked from their minds the circumstances of his death, did not like talking about his end, and I had to pry more than I would have liked just to get the information I needed to complete the book.

But mostly I was stymied by my own mind, which refused to work with me, to help me kill off this amazing man. It may have been, as my friend said, that I had invested so much in building him up, how could I just tear him down? But now, finally, I know it was more than that.

I could not kill him, with mere words, because he had become so much more than that to me.

He was not a character in a nonfiction book.

He was not a name on a page.

He was my grandfather.

He was a man who, if he had lived, would have toted me on his shoulders and helped me dig worms and bait my hook, who would have towered over me in kindness.

He was real. He was alive.

Or, at least, that was how it felt, for a little while, before I went ahead and finally did it, finally allowed his legs to buckle and allowed his tall, thin frame to fall into the new grass of a spring evening, allowed him to die -- again.

I hated that. If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't do it, not on a bet, not for a gold monkey.

I would let him live on and on and on, forever.

I hope people see value in him, between his flaws. But even if Charlie Bundrum never touches anyone else the way his story did me, it was worth the time, worth the work, worth all of it.

For two years, I got to sit with my kin and talk about a man I never knew, a man with my same blood, my same temper, my same eyes and hair and hard-headedness and more.

And then I made me a grandfather.

How damn cool is that? (Rick Bragg)

Rick Bragg's Southern Grit
From the September/October 2001 issue of Book magazine.

He's got things to take care of, this man. Besides bailing a brother out of trouble and allaying the concerns of the mother he celebrated in All Over but the Shoutin', the preeminent chronicler of yesterday's South confronts his readers with the issue that nobody wants to discuss today: class.

Rick Bragg has just gotten off the phone in his small home office, walked through the large, open kitchen and entered the living room of his shotgun-style New Orleans home. He's holding a stamped, addressed envelope in his right hand and slowly waving it back and forth. "Bail money," he repeats.

He's a big man, nearly six foot three and heavyset, and when he gets agitated, you feel it. He's steadily pacing the room, walking off warring feelings of rage, concern and helplessness, stoicism and exasperation. He runs his hands through his thick brown hair, and it falls back into his face. The young, beautiful woman who has just flown in to spend the weekend with him is silent. Helplessness is on her face as well.

Bragg speaks again. "Some people, when they talk to the folks at home, they get, ‘Oh, hi, honey, it's so good to hear from you. How are you doing?' When my momma calls, it's, ‘Rick, Mark is in trouble again. Can you help him out?' "

It's as close as Bragg will ever come to saying anything remotely critical of his mother, the shimmering heroine of his first book, All Over but the Shoutin'. The saga of his mother's struggle to raise three boys amid the abject poverty of rural Alabama -- and to overcome the burden of a violent, alcoholic husband from whom she eventually is compelled to flee -- Shoutin', as Bragg invariably refers to it, is a powerful redemption song. By the book's end, his mother, Margaret, is safely ensconced in the first home she has ever owned. Bragg purchased the place for her after skyrocketing to success as a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times. Also, Bragg's older brother, Sam, settles into a dignified life as a workingman, a reliable rock of support to his family and community.

But like one of those disturbing characters who refuses to join the restored circle of humanity at the end of a Shakespeare comedy, Bragg's younger brother, Mark, has thus far rejected his place at the hearth. He's assumed, instead, his father's role as the seductive hell-raiser determined to unsettle any order he manages to stumble into. And, as her youngest son, he has proved to have as strong a hold on his mother as his father ever did.

"I tried that tough-love shit," Bragg explains as we drive in the pulverizing New Orleans heat to find a mailbox. "But then I'll get a call from my momma and she'll say, ‘Ricky, would you mind if I sold some of this furniture to get some money for Mark?' And that's not acceptable to me." He pauses, his hands tightly gripping the wheel. "I spent $24,000 getting him out of one jam or another last year." He pauses again, then repeats, "$24,000."

He continues to drive and eventually stops at Dunbar's, a ramshackle but spectacularly satisfying Creole restaurant in a devastated neighborhood. His dark eyes light up as he enters and contemplates the savory delights awaiting him. He energetically annotates the menu for his guests, gleefully concluding, "And I'm ordering the fried chicken 'cause I'm Ricky!" The meal more than lifts his spirits. He's smiling, laughing, and telling stories with the unfailing eye for detail that makes both Shoutin' and his writing for the Times so distinctive. His brother's travails seem a distant memory -- somebody else's life somewhere else. When he arrives home, Bragg realizes that he has forgotten to mail the check. (Anthony DeCurtis)

Introduction

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

“Grab[s] you from the first sentence . . . [and] stays with you long after you put it down. . . . It is hard to think of a writer who reminds us more forcefully and wonderfully of what people and families are all about.” —The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are designed to enhance your group’s reading of Ava’s Man, Rick Bragg’s brilliant story of his grandfather’s unique life, the follow-up to his bestselling and deeply affectionate portrait of his mother, All Over but the Shoutin’.

Customer Reviews

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Ava's Man 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best, if not the best book I have ever read. His other book, ...shoutin, is also excellent. I have just purchased an ARC of his newest, 'prince in frogtown', and hope it will be as enjoyable as his other two memoirs. His newspaper book was good, considering it is articles and not personal history. He writes so beautifully, anyone who can appreciate how a man values his family, will love rick bragg's work.outstanding!
Guest More than 1 year ago
You may as well be sitting at the counter of a Anniston coffee shop ease dropping in on the local chatter..... good writing, that writing of his. The clouds collect in our minds, the minds of the readers, his readers. His words come around, swirl around and sit with you, next to you like an old song that touches you each time it is in the wind, with, as he says, something beyond simple nostalgia. Thanks Rick, now I've been to Alabama when it was worth being there. AFJ
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rick Bragg's account left me speechless and wanting more. This book, as well as All Over But The Shoutin', was simply amazing. I suggest that everyone read it. I passed it along to my mother and sister and next is my grandmom. Everyone should get the opportunity to read Bragg's words.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All you need to enjoy this book is a heart. Unlike 'Shoutin'', RB doesn't do any digressing into stories he covered in newspapers. This is pure country. I happen to have been born and raised in the suburbs of NY, but that didn't stop me from identifying with the book. It'll get ya' nostalgic, no matter where you're from. I also caught this guys act on 'Book TV', where they do a schpiel in front of an audience. He's ALLright, which in NY, is a compliment of the highest order.
kelawrence on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I liked this book a lot - you don't need to be from the south to enjoy the stories and get a real picture of what life was like for these folks. I found the dialect a bit much at times (the dropped "g's" were rather annoying - "gettin' and grinnin' and pickin' and peelin'") and towards the end the story got a bit long, but it was definitely a labor of love about someone who was larger than life that the author sadly never got to know, and that really transcended the story.
msf59 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
I was born in July of 1959 and so was Rick Bragg and just a day apart. I was raised in the North, in an urban setting, by working class parents, far removed from Bragg¿s upbringing, living in the Deep South, dirt poor, struggling to survive with a mostly absent father. Despite these differences, I feel my only key advantage is that I knew my paternal grandfather and had the immense satisfaction of enjoying his strong presence for over thirty years. Bragg¿s grandfather, Charlie Bundrun, died a few years before Rick was born. This is Charlie¿s story and what a wonderful tale it is.Charlie was everything a working, family man should be: faithful, loving and protective. He was a capable carpenter, roofer, mechanic. He fished and hunted and when times were lean he ran a still. He had his flaws too. He liked to drink and fight but he was not a mean drunk. He told great stories and danced up a storm. He also doted on his many children. This is Bragg¿s second memoir and the first was dedicated to his mother. A perfect ode to a man he never knew and I had the added pleasure of getting to reminisce about my own ¿bigger than life¿ Grandpa, as I followed Charlie¿s journey.
AdonisGuilfoyle on LibraryThing 25 days ago
After rediscovering my love for Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird', I now have a keen craving for any literature, fact or fiction, that brings to life the history of the Deep South. The strong and eccentric characters, the lazy heat, delectable food and lyrical accents. Pulling up a list of recommendations here on Librarything, I wasn't really expecting to find another Mockingbird or Harper Lee, but by happy chance that's just what I got!Rick Bragg's writing has the same colourful detail, warm nostalgia and dry wit of my favourite novel, and just like Harper Lee's masterpiece, the characters are lifelike and sympathetic because they are based on real people. 'Ava's Man' is a story of the Deep South (or the South that once was, during the Depression) and Bragg's own family history. Ava's man is his grandfather, the handsome man on the cover but also the rail thin figure in overalls on the flyleaf, holding an oversized catfish by the mouth. The author never got to meet his fabled grandfather, his mother's father, for which he claims he will never forgive him. After spending a whole day jotting down reminiscences at a family reunion in Alabama, this is the real man that Rick Bragg got to know posthumously - 'since I never really had a grandfather, I decided to make me one'. Charlie and Ava's life, and just the fact that they survived with seven of their eight children, is incredible. It sounds like a cliche now, but Charlie really was just a working man, a roofer who ran a still as a sideline, and Ava was his tough and voluble wife, who would sit by and make sure her children ate first before feeding herself. They moved back and forth between Alabama and Georgia many times before Charlie finally died in Alabama, and that is where most of the family settled and stayed afterwards. There is humour in their history - from the various strays that Charlie would 'adopt' to the beating that Ava once gave a woman named Blackie Lee for hanging her silk stockings on the line - and also sadness, but always a sense of family, love and security.Rick Bragg spins a personal yarn about his beloved grandather, who rightly deserves a book, but likker, commodity cheese and cornbread aside, this could be about any family who stayed together and set down roots for generation after generation to call home.If this is the 'good part' that Rick Bragg missed from his first book, I'm definitely going to have to read 'Shoutin' to fill in the blanks. Beautiful.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing 25 days ago
Ava's man was Bragg's maternal grandfather who passed away before Rick was born into poverty. Like William Faulkner, Bragg writes of the poor American South with such vivid descriptions that you feel as though you are walking along a hot, dusty path in a depression era back woods, spiting tobacco and drinking moon shine as your caloused hands and achy back trudge along yet one more soul depleting day.Like Pat Conroy, Bragg captures the essence of an abusive father who simply won't let go of the booze and the demons.Life was hard, mean and nasty and wore Bragg's family down to a pulp. Bragg's admiration for his grandfather shone through.This is the second book of his that I've read and I'll continue to learn of Bragg's saga. It is wonderful to read such clear, crisp images. This guy can write!
missioncreek on LibraryThing 25 days ago
In this second book about his heritage, Rick Bragg uses family stories to capture the nature and personal history of his Maternal Grandfather. Not as potent a work as "Shoutin'", but important in understanding his Mother's resilience.
bettyjo on LibraryThing 5 months ago
great look at the hard life of rural Alabama during the depression and moonshining days.
Aetatis on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Bragg is one of the best new Southern writers. He captures both the essence and feel of the story along with presenting a wonderfully objective and personal balance.
Anonymous 10 months ago
I absolutely loved this book. His writing and characters are captivating. I love everything Rick Bragg writes but this is the best. He captures a time, a place and a people that you will glad you met. Beautiful!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sit back and enjoy the ride as Rick Bragg brings you along on a journey that is clearly precious to him. A journey about his family- rich in detail and laced with sadness, humor, and honesty.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hm, Avalanche, you'll never hear it directly from him but he's proud of you and loves you dearly.<p>Question Six de Dix:<br>My favourite rp is...
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livewireps More than 1 year ago
Love his style of writing, grabs you from the first sentence own everyone of his books. When does he have new ones Coming out. n
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey any one on
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BirdieOH More than 1 year ago
I bought this book on sale not really sure, but thought I would give it a chance. This is one of the best books I have ever read! It sticks with you long after you have finished. I am soo mad that I gave my hard bound copy to a friend and never got it back. Now I am in search for another one. It is a book you want to read again and again...
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Dillydog More than 1 year ago
When I started this book I gave some serious thought to getting rid of it. I'm glad I didn't. It took a while for me to get used to Rick's style of writing, but once I did I was able to enjoy not only the story, but his style of writing. I laughed, I cried, and I identified. We get to pick our friends, but not our family. A Southern writer gives this story a southern touch. You will surely enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago