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review 2018-05-14 16:44
Book #874 - 351,319 Pages Read
What Stands in a Storm: A True Story of Love and Resilience in the Worst Superstorm in History - Gillian Cross,Rick Bragg

I heard about this book from a podcast I listened to recently, entitled 'Tornado Talk'. I thought it sounded interesting and decided to give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised by one of the best books I've ever had the privilege of reading.

Slowly laying out a story that the author claimed "needed to be told", Ms. Cross has put together a book unlike any other I have read among similar genres. This book focuses on what has been called the worst tornado outbreak this country has ever experienced (4/27/11), surpassing even the infamous "Super Outbreak" (4/3/74). I was very, very impressed with the amount of research done, making the science understandable and basic, yet not oversimplified for laymen purposes as is found in so many other similar publications.

It is here that Ms. Cross begins to bring the human stories into the developing dangerous situation: a woman and her budding meteorologist-to-be son in Smithville, Mississippi; an experienced meteorologist in Birmingham who would spend literally all day in front of the cameras saving countless lives with his repeated warnings; college students in Tuscaloosa preparing in various ways for the worsening weather; a family in Cordova, Alabama frantically trying to survive. I bring these examples up because this may be the most ingenious way I've ever seen an author combine these stories with the scientific explanation of how that fateful day unfolded. The tension is palpable; the dread is real, and when the worst finally happens, the stories are really only beginning.

The second part of the book deals with the aftermath of the devastation. It is no less tense than the first part, but along with that it becomes literally, emotionally gut wrenching in parts. No spoilers, but I must mention the part of a particular search and rescue worker who volunteers her services along with her search dogs that literally had me bawling.

Whew.....Ms. Cross then does an outstanding job of slowly bringing hope back into the situation: descriptions of emergency rescue personnel along with other heroes, hundreds if not thousands of volunteers descending on Tuscaloosa to help any way they could, emotional reunions of victims with their rescuers, and people slowly getting on with their lives with hope for the future while dealing with the constant but receding pain.

Highly recommended....well done, Kim Cross, a truly magnificent effort.

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review 2015-02-24 03:46
What Stands in a Storm: Three Days in the Worst Superstorm to Hit the South's Tornado Alley - Kim Cross,Rick Bragg

I remember watching a tornado form on April 3rd or 4th, 1974 as a teenager. It was a scary sight. Soon after that, we drove through the other side of town to check out the damages done by all the tornadoes that day. It was horrendous. Then I heard about the destruction in Xenia, Ohio and Brandenburg, Kentucky. A friend of my parents cancelled checks were found in Xenia, Ohio. We lived in Louisville, Kentucky. That began my fear of tornadoes.

This book is about the next largest group of hurricanes in a short time, 2011 in Alabama. I guess for me, this book was like driving by a wreck, you have to stop and look or at least slow down. It was just an interesting book to me and I enjoyed reading most of it. I did skip through several pages when it was describing the meteorological aspect of how tornadoes are formed. However, I did enjoy the personal stories that were added and how people dealt with the oncoming danger before and after.

It's not my usual genre, but I did enjoy reading it.

Thank you Atria Books and Net Galley for providing me with this free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2013-08-07 00:48
All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg
All Over But the Shoutin' - Rick Bragg

Last month’s book club pick was American-born authors. We’ve spent a couple of months reading different books on a similar topic. The Alabama Booksmith has a good list of Alabama authors. Some of them weren’t born in Alabama, but it’s easy to tell who was by reading the bios. I didn’t make it that far into the list before I picked my book. I can’t quite say what it is about this book that made me want to read it. I just thought it sounded interesting, and since I haven’t read a memoir in a while, I decided I would try it.


All Over But the Shoutin’ is mostly about Bragg’s mother and the sacrifices she made to give him a better life than she had. Bragg has always felt a sense of duty when it comes to his mother. He wanted to pay her back for everything she did for him, and I think writing this book was part of that.


If Bragg’s purpose was to give his mother the recognition and praise she deserved, mission accomplished. The story of his childhood is eye-opening and moving. I’m from a small town in Alabama, but I grew up in a different time, and I never had to deal with the kind of poverty his family lived through. Still, there are parts I really enjoyed and related to. I totally understand the experience that is the small-town Southern Baptist church. It can be… intense. Also, they love food. There’s food at everything, and it’s always amazing. It’s food like nothing you will ever taste. There’s also the boredom of living in a small town that usually leads to trouble. I’ve saw more than enough of that growing up. It fun to read things like that, and really get it. It was also interesting to read about people who’ve never left their town, never seen anything. One of the most entertaining parts was when his mother accompanied him to New York. She amazed by the plane and the tall buildings. I can only imagine what that would be like for someone who’s only ever lived in one place. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was all the information about his journalism. While, it was kind of interesting, it wasn’t what I was looking for in this book. I was more interested in his mother and his life in Alabama. At the same time, I think a good chunk of it was crucial to set up the last part of the book.


Bragg’s memoir dedicated to his mother was certainly interesting and mostly entertaining. He did a wonderful job painting a picture of a selfless woman who sacrificed so much for her children. I’m think of picking up the book about his grandfather, at some point.

Source: www.owltellyouaboutit.com/posts/all-over-but-the-shoutin
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review 2011-07-07 00:00
Ava's Man - Rick Bragg Rick Bragg’s affection for his family and his pride in them shows in this book, and the stories are amusing, if you can get past the violence in the fights. The best part of this book, in my opinion, is the taste of the past that comes through.
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review 2011-03-18 00:00
Ava's Man
Ava's Man - Rick Bragg NO SPOILERS!!!

On completion: I am sad to leave this book. It was a delight to read. I fell in love with Charlie, Ava's Man. the author's grandfather. Rick Bragg talked with all his relatives to find out about his grandfather. He was in fact born after his death. It wasn't easy finding out about Charlie because when he died everybody simply could no longer talk about him. It was too hurtful. You can look at this man and say he wasn't so great; he did so many things he shouldn't do. The fact is he was great! Why? Well, because he did so many things he should do, too, and he did these things so darn well. He was a great father. You could depend upon him. The times were tough, but he pulled all of his kids through except one who died. He pulled them through to such an extent that they never wanted to be far from him. They could always rely on him. So how bad is it to make a little likker on the side, to cuss, to wear ventilated, sometimes dirty, patched overalls and to brawl now and then when you see what he did achieve. He gave security and love to those in his famuily. He built a wall around his home and he never brought his likker inside that wall. He knew that would cause grief, So he stuck to that rule. I recommend you read this book because it is a delight to know this person. I see him as a model figure for how a father should be. At the same time you really learn how it was to live through the Depression in the South. I like books that teach something. This did. The witing was magical because it conveyed a time and a place that I didn't know at all and made it so real I could touch and smell and see and hear and feel it inside of me. Maybe I should have given it five stars, but I think I didn't quite feel for any of the other characters as much. When he dies the book looses steam, but that is only about a chapter from the last page. Not terribly much happens, but you do get to know a wonderful human being! I feel most comfortable with four stars, so that is what it gets.


OK, this is my last quote, for more you must read the book. So all the men, just about all of them were making their own likker, down in the South along the border between Georgia and Alabama. Charlie simply had to, during the Depression you took any opportunity available to bring home a little cash, for food or to pay doctors. He had six kids! And his likker never killed anyone. He made good likker. Nothing poisonous, like others did. It wasn't a big operation, no indeed.

The revenuers there paid absolutely no mind to Charlie Bundrum or his little moonshine still, it would have been like arresting someone for popping bubble gum in the middle of Mardi Gras. (page 143)


I am halway through, and enjoying every minute of it. Rick Bragg can write. He can make stories about likker and lightning bugs and ghosts. You will believe them just as I do. What a storyteller!

Ghost stories begin like this. But then drinking stories, begin this way too. (Page 130)

I don't drink, b/c it's messy with diabetes. It is not that I have anything against others that do! The book takes place during the Prohibition, and I am a law-abiding type, but these stories are delightful.

Men drank. Men worked. Men fought.

By the time you were thirteen or fourteen, you were a man, or else something pitiful.......

But this was one of the reasons they loved him.
(Ava's man, i.e. Charlie, the author's grandfather)His nature, his fine nature, was not turned ugly by it. He drank and he laughed and he drank and he sang and he drank and he told good stories, and sometimes he drank and he just went to bed smiling. (page 132)

The prose is like a song.

Just a taste of the author's wonderful knack for telling a story;

By his momma's death, Charlie was more man than most ever get, a tall, hard, strong and smiling man, as if he were immune to the fires that had scorched him, if not purified by them.

He lived for fiddle music and corn likker, and became a white-hot banjo picker, and a buck dancer and a ladies' man, because women just love a man who can dance. At seventeen he could cut lumber all day, then tell stories all night, and people in the foothills said he would never settle down or maybe even amount to much. But the boy would charma bird off a wire. And there seemed to be no fear in him, no fear at all. It was almost as if he had died already, met the devil and knew he could charm him or trick him or even whip him, because what did ol' Scratch have left to show him that he had not already seen.

You get folk songs too, that make you want to hum along. And if yu are wondering what a buck dancer is, worry no more. Read the book, and you will know and be able to see it in your mind's eye.

This book is about the author's grandfather and mother who grew up in the Appalachian foothills, in towns straddling the Alabama and Georgia state line, before and during the Depression. I can tell right now that one should pick up this book to roll the words around in your mouth before swallowing them. The author won a Pulitzer Prize. I think it was for this book, if I remember correctly.

And I love reading it on my Kindle! Can reading be this simple and delightful?!
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