All Over But the Shoutin’

Originally published November 2014

Friends are grand, aren’t they?

One of my dear high school sisters found when I posted a list of books that us regular folk read, it was missing Rick Bragg. So she rectified the problem with this: All Over but the Shoutin’, a memoir by the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times writer.

It’s the kind of book that reads like a novel—the story of a Southern boy that loves his momma but doesn’t always do right by her. A boy with a stand-up older brother and a troublemaking younger brother. And an absentee father that if anything, instilled a desire to do better by everyone.

Bragg himself will tell you it was the winds of good fortune that got him into writing at all, and catapulted him to his first full-time jobs at newspapers. But don’t let him fool you—it’s all talent that got him to the top of his game at the NYT. His feature writing is exquisite, and his career has taken him all over the world. But it’s his deep roots in the South, a childhood that could be defined as economically poor as it was rich in memories, that serve to color his storytelling.

It’s the storytelling cadence to this memoir that can make it easy to forget any of it really happened, so it’s more than a little sad that it did. Sometimes it’s the most difficult of circumstances that inspire people to fight their way out, and Bragg does just that. But it’s his allegiance to his mother, who sacrificed everything for her boys, that completes the man. It’s heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time to read of the lengths Bragg goes to to give back to his mother while at the same time feeling as if he never does enough.

I wholeheartedly recommend this read for anyone who likes a good story, and think it would be especially interesting to teens caught in that in-between, not knowing which direction their lives can or will go. It’s all good in the end.

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