My mother and father were born in the most beautiful place on earth, in the foothills of the Appalachians along the Alabama-Georgia line. -- from All Over But the Shoutin'
I know this place Rick Bragg writes about in the opening sentence from chapter one of his first book All Over But the Shoutin'. It's the same area where I was born and my daddy was born and where my mother spent most of her childhood and adult life. He grew up on one rural side of the closest town and I grew up on the other. It's a beautiful place where the low mountains often reflect a blue hue from the open sky above. I grew up in a quiet valley between those mountains. Those mountains, that valley, they seep into your bones, your very being. It's always with you.
Having attended Jacksonville State University (where Bragg attended for 6 months) and earning a minor in mass communications, I knew of Rick Bragg. How could I not hear of someone who grew up in our area winning the Pulitzer Prize? So of course when his first book came out I had to read it.
I don't know that I've ever gone back and read a book twice. It's just not something I normally do. But I recently bought his latest book and decided to reread his first ones in order to share my reviews of each of them here with you over the next 4 weeks. And once again I remember what a gifted writer Bragg is. He possesses the rare, or maybe just by-gone, gift of storytelling and doesn't simply tell us a story, but paints the story with his words.
Growing up in a poor, rural area of Alabama, Bragg's mother sacrificed everything for her children. And in All Over But the Shoutin' Rick Bragg repays his mother with his insightful story of the poor, rural south, their story. A story that sounded like it could have been the story of one of my parents and grandparents or the story of many of the people I knew from back home.
Having myself grown up in the rural south I understand how some want to escape it and I have seen those around me that did grow up in poverty find their way out and leave our area. Through his backbone he credits his mother with, Bragg did escape the poverty, but he never forgot who he was and all that his childhood and family made him to be.