When I was twelve I spent a month in Texas, in the country, in my grandparents’ small house. I have relatives in Florida, and I’ve spent a weekend there every so often. This is the closest I’ve gotten to the South, but Rick Bragg’s book made me feel as though I was really there. Bragg’s skillful storytelling is such that I felt as though I was following along as his mother worked in the fields with him on her back, when she scraped the bottom of the pot dinner had cooked in so that she might have a bite after her sons had eaten their fill, when she walked into the house he had saved up for years to buy her, in cold hard cash, so that if anything happened to him she wouldn’t lose the home.
Bragg has a very lyrical way of writing, and I can see why he won the Pulitzer Prize. A Southerner, through and through, he’s modest and willing to put his flaws up there for anyone to read about. He has a life his mother cannot imagine, travelling across the country and beyond it, to torn-up Haiti and riots in the States. Throughout the course of his book he manages, through skill and luck, to break free of the pattern set by his drunk father, and really make a name for himself. He describes his upbringing in such detail that I couldn’t help but cheer him on as he worked his way up the ladder of journalism. Winning the Pulitzer Prize is such a pivotal moment for him, yet his focus is on his mother the whole time; his description of their trip to New York for him to receive the prize is told through his mother’s eyes and is especially moving and funny.
I think it will be awhile before I reread this one, if I do, because it’s got kind of a punch. But I’m glad to have read it for the first time.