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This review is from: All over but the Shoutin' (Paperback)
If Rick Bragg can be given credence, there's no poverty like growing up dirt-poor in northeast Alabama. But he also has an exceptional Momma, and ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN', besides being an autobiography, is Bragg's tribute to this loving and selfless woman.
Bragg was born in 1959. His father, perhaps irrevocably damaged psychologically by combat duty in Korea, was an alcoholic spouse abuser who finally deserted his family in 1966. Rick's mother, Margaret, was left struggling to support herself and three sons by picking cotton, doing other people's laundry, and swallowing her pride to accept charity from family and neighbors. This book is Bragg's account of those early years, and his career as a print journalist from reporting high school and college football games in the late 70s to winning the Pulitzer Prize in 1996 while on the staff of the New York Times. Most of all, it's about family - his Mom, her parents, and his brothers (Sam and Mark).
That the author is a gifted writer goes without saying. (After all, one doesn't win the Pulitzer by scribbling book reviews for a major website.) ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN' is poignant, sad, affecting and absorbing. It's a page-turner. However, at no time did Rick convince me that he's experienced any joie de vivre. Unlike one of my favorite authors, Laura Shaine Cunningham, who penned the autobiographical SLEEPING ARRANGEMENTS and A PLACE IN THE COUNTRY, Bragg comes across as one whose difficult childhood left him one of the walking wounded. I'm not sure his numerous mea culpas scattered throughout the work added value, and the apologia began to get tiresome. Indeed, the whole book seems a prelude to chapter 40 in which the author explains why he is what he is, and apologizes for what he's not and what he hasn't done.
The best reason to read ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN' is to become acquainted with Margaret, and perhaps the best chapter is near the end when Rick describes his Momma's very first plane ride and foray out into the larger world - at age 59 - to see her son awarded the Pulitzer in New York City. That chapter alone is worth the price of the book. Margaret is truly the essence of the meaning of "Mom".