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.
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.
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.
The prose is like a song.
Just a taste of the author's wonderful knack for telling a story;
(Page44-45)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?!