Books

Ava's Man
By Rick Bragg
Knopf/$25

In an effort to bring to life the grandfather who died a year before his birth, Rick Bragg summoned his family to share their pain-laced memories. While Bragg re-creates his grandpa's story through starry-eyed envy, he is careful not to leave the old man completely untarnished. Ava's Man is a remarkable account of one of the more admirable men of American history, Charlie Bundrum. Charlie was not a president, not an inventor or some astounding entrepreneur. More impressively, he was a family man of stand-up integrity that managed to survive the Great Depression and still keep his spirits high and his family happy and safe. "He was a man whose tender heart was stitched together with steel wire ... who hunted without regard to seasons or quotas because how could a game warden in Montgomery or Atlanta know if his babies were hungry? ... A man with thick, sandy hair and blue eyes that looked like something you would see on a rich woman's bracelet. He was a man who inspired backwoods legend and the kind of loyalty that still makes old men dip their heads respectfully when they say his name."

This excerpt should be just enough for you to fall in love with the style of Rick Bragg, and his grandpa Charlie. Bragg's story reads like a trip down the river on an inner tube. The tale's slow and peaceful pace is not only apropos to the Deep South in the '30s but also to the attitude his grandfather maintained throughout his less-than-leisurely life. While it would be easy to mistake this man for a fictitious character as he is almost too precious to be real, the reality of him is the very thing that makes his story so inspiring. The reality is what connects our lives to his and gives us all hope in that kind of mankind.

—Jennifer Wilson

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