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on May 30, 2016
I've been blessed never to have encountered a violent drunk, much less to be married to one and fear for my life and the lives of my children every single day. I don't understand how alcohol drives some people to try to kill the ones they love, but when Rick Bragg writes of his frail mother standing as a wall between her blind drunk husband and her young sons or about his memory of hiding under his bed terrified his father would find and beat him, I gain understanding of such visceral fear and the acts of courage that mothers are capable of.
This is the first book of Bragg's I have read. I came to it on the recommendation of a friend inclined to enjoy it because as a journalist I am predisposed to savor the work of fellow journalists who have won a Pulitzer Prize. The free sample on Amazon hooked me.
Only my most favorite books reduce me to tears. This one did.
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VINE VOICEon November 4, 2014
If you haven’t read Rick Bragg, what are you waiting for? There are few writers today who can turn as beautiful a phrase, capture a reader’s imagination, or bring back images of an earlier life like Bragg does. Yet he is commonplace and earthy, his writing carries a twang, and his opinions, mostly about the superiority of Southern life, are rampant. It’s clear he doesn’t much appreciate effete Northerners who have never eaten grits. He’s a Southern boy.

I suspect he is a true redneck, as we traditionally understand it. But the cornpone dissolves into singing prose when he settles in to inscribe his magic words. “All Over but the Shoutin’” is his runaway best selling memoir, published in 1997, and winner of innumerable awards and high praise from both readers and literary critics. It will both exhilarate you and leave you in a sobbing heap, sometimes at the same time.

It’s the story of his childhood in Alabama and his meandering journey to becoming a legendary journalist. It’s filled with stories about things and people that influenced his life. Mostly it’s a love song about his mother who raised Bragg and his two brothers without a father. The book started him on the road to fame and is his best seller. His mother, still living, is the lifeline he unapologetically clings to. Best not chide him for it unless you want your butt kicked.

Bragg has been a lot of places and seen a lot of things in his career. Most of his recollections wear heavily on him. He recounts them with clarity and neither turns away from the horrific nor fails to express the misery that hurts his heart. He is a man with a compassionate soul who’s unafraid to share his feelings.

But it is the poetic beauty of his love and determination to honor his mother that propels this book. Her entire life has been filled with heartache, grinding poverty, three boys who constantly bedevil her, crippling insecurity, and constant sorrow. Bragg recognizes his contribution to her misery, but has always wanted to set it straight, and expresses his frustration with his inability to make her life warmer as she ages.

His words rings like a bell. There were times when I laughed and others when a stray tear wet my cheek. Many times I simply caught myself staring at the wall absorbing some moving passage, my finger stuck in the book so I wouldn’t lose my place.

Don’t miss this book. It’s a classic memoir with all the elements that are sure to soften even the most callous mind-set. It’s not a tearjerker. It’s a bright light that illuminates glorious writing, a light so bright it makes your eyes water.

Schuyler T Wallace
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on January 30, 2017
I can feel the hot sun. I can feel the ice cold springs. I can feel the speed of the car, motorcycle or vehicle blow my hair. I can smell the sweat of hard work and taste the fresh tomatoes. I live in the South near Jacksonville, FL where this author went to school. Being born in 1947 in the South means you lived through segregation, voting issues, school and lunchroom sitdowns if you survived the nuclear bomb in your personal bomb shelter. Rick Bragg personifies all five senses of the era, the language (likker is one of my favorites), plus touch, mental, and physical. I lived with black and white tvs and rabbit ears and even little tubes that a neighbor could fix. I remember my grandparents getting an "indoor" bathroom. This book is a memory massage that melted my soul. Thanks to Rick Bragg. Keep on telling it like it is.
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on March 26, 2017
Oh Dear Lord, this book was so gut wrenching, so honest a portrayal of southern life from a poor white boy's childhood in Alabama and his rise to the top of the journalism field. We read so much about downtrodden black lives, and this doesn't detract from the difficulties of those stories, but it's possible many people do not know that plenty of white lives weren't any better. How can a man live through these hard times, and with scanty education, write some of the most heart rending prose you'll find anywhere. It is to be savored. Oh yes, Rick you have 'the gift' my man'!! Thank you for sharing this memoir with the world. Those of us whose parents came from this part of the USA have heard stories about many of these events. Thankfully I didn't have to live it, but I'll never forget some of the same stories told to me by my mother. Honey can flat write!!!
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on May 6, 2017
What took me so long? I've been following Rick Bragg in Southern Living Magazine for years. Truthfully, for quite awhile now its the only thing I read in the magazine. My husband knew I was a fan of his so he bought me his latest book for Christmas and I read it from front to back in a sitting. So, I finally went hunting for more and found this on my Kindle. Again, I read this from beginning to end but not in one sitting. I wanted to stretch it out. To make it last. I cried and laughed and cried again. In the end I felt it was the most beautiful love letter to a Mother I have ever read. He may not have meant for it to be only that because it seemed it was also a love letter to his big brother. Yes, maybe, just maybe, his Dad. I hope my children feel the same way about me. In the end, that's all that really counts. Isn't it?
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on May 6, 2013
I thought I would like this book since I grew us in "border South" (KY) and I thought we were poor. But probably more like the bottom of the "middle class". Never poor by Bragg's standards. But I had felt the sting of thinking I was not quite as good. I had seen it compared to Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt, which I had enjoyed. But somehow,McCourts book was far removed for me. New York, Ireland, and a decade before I was born.
Bragg's book I wanted to identify with, but just couldn't. I resented his unforgiving bitterness. I give him a big credit for honesty. He admits his flaw (chip on the shoulder). But he definitely carries a "reverse discrimination" with him. That's when the have-nots resent the haves because they think the haves denied them something. His time growing up was just about a decade ahead of my time growing up there, and perhaps I wanted to believe things had improved by then.
I also resented his cynical attitude toward Christian faith. But again, I give him credit that he did see the good in those with real faith. He did not criticize the church or how the people there treated him. Yet he seemed to have an arrogant attitude that he was just to intelligent to believe. At the same time, I sensed a certain sadness that he couldn't believe.
In the end, My comment would be the same one someone made to me about Frank McCourt: "He is a wonderful writer. A talented man. But I don't think I like him."
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on March 10, 2017
This is my first experience with Rick Bragg. I knew it wouldn't be my last. From an unusual perspective - a personal one - he takes us back to his childhood in Alabama. I could identify with many moments, from violence in the home, to hard-working people, to just making it through a life with or without alcohol.. He honors his mother continually . . . not sure we see that today. We follow his career from his reporting in the school newspaper to a Pulitzer prize winner for journalism. A stunning piece. I can hardly wait to read more.
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on December 27, 2013
I have just one regret about this book--that it didn't come to my attention until three years after publication.

Viewed from one angle, the book serves as an intriguing memoir of a writer whose talent took him from small newspapers to the pinnacles of journalism--The New York Times and The Pulitzer Prize.

Viewed from another angle, the book ushers readers into a riveting portrait of an impoverished area of the southern part of the United States. Bragg showcases his family's struggle to endure hunger, hard labor, snobbery, and the brutality of a hard drinking brutal father who drifted in and out of their lives.

My brief video review mentions other reasons you will find the book compelling and memorable.

Ultimately, you will cheer as Rick Bragg and his family move far beyond their harsh early years to enjoy security, serenity, and national acclaim. Rarely will any of us read a book that, without artifice, moves us so skillfully through such a range of strong emotions.
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on April 19, 2017
I really enjoyed this book, even though I am guilty of a lot of the things this author warned against, like being ashamed of where you're from (West Texas is my Alabama). I thought a lot about my mother, whose alcoholic mother drug her through five marriages and abandoned her and her brothers often. I thought of my daddy who grew up in Tennessee poverty. Mr. Bragg's humility and honesty came through on every page and I rooted for him, even though I often didn't understand his choices. I am probably the only reader who thought his closeness to his mother was odd.
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on December 27, 2013
Rick Bragg was born poor, in Alabama. He lived with a mother who loved him fiercely, 2 brothers, an alcoholic father ( who came and went and eventually left and never came back), He writes a fascinating story about his life, growing up poor, the love of a mother that pulls you through, how he became a Pulitzer Prize winning, New York Times Reporter (along with several other newspaper jobs and awards) without having a college degree. Throughout this beautifully crafted book, he weaves back and fourth between his memories of his childhood, the horrific news stories he covers, and how he gives all the credit to who he is today to his mother. The parts in the book where he visits his mother, phones his mother, tries to protect her from the dangerous stories he really covers are so beautifully written and touching. After I finished, it stayed with me and I wanted to read everything he wrote!
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