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All Over but the Shoutin’
Random House, 1997
~~ Rick Bragg~~
Book Review by Augusta Russel Scattergood



Rick Bragg is a good ol’ boy from northeastern Alabama who just happens to be a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the New York Times. He claims in this book, which is part memoir, part history, he has written a story that “is important only to me and a few people . . . with my last name.”

But All Over But the Shoutin’ is a book that, on every page, reminds you of someone you know and love—or at the very least, somebody you heard about at the dinner table. Rick Bragg may be telling the story of his momma and his brothers and his daddy and his grandmother, but it’s a story you’ll swear you have heard before. It’s just that Rick Bragg tells it so much better.

The book moves from Florida to California to New Orleans and New York--and back and forth to the pineywoods of Alabama. Rick Bragg has lived a lot of places and knows a lot of stories. Some of them in the section “Lies to My Mother” are straight from his newspaper accounts, the headlines and the human interest stories.

Over his career, Bragg has written about sports for his local newspaper, first-hand accounts of the Susan Smith trial, and war stories from Haiti, to name a few. Interwoven into a mosaic of world news, Op Ed pieces and true confessions is his family’s personal history. Rick Bragg’s people become yours, and All Over But the Shoutin’ becomes a book you don’t dare put down.

The author doesn’t think of his book as a memoir; he calls it "a story of a handful of lives, in which one tall woman came off looking good and noble." He’s writing about his hardworking mother, but Rick Bragg is a natural born storyteller and his humor, his honest language, and all the people and places he’s known keep you reading.

Bragg claims to have written this book for his mother and for all the other dirt-poor people whose stories won’t ever be written and might not be remembered. But I suspect those of us with roots in the South will read it and remember a grandmother like his who listened to fiddle music on the radio or a brother who rode a motorcycle barefooted and fast.

Or perhaps we’ll just read the book for the glorious writing, the humor and the grace.

At the end of the book, when Bragg’s paid cash for a new house for his mother and remembered the times his grandmother comforted him in the dark of the night, you know All Over But the Shoutin’ is the kind of book you won’t soon forget. You’ll want to tell your friends about it and ask your grandmother for family stories.

Then you’ll wish you had Rick Bragg to write it all down.


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Augusta Russel Scattergood grew up in the Mississippi Delta, but now makes her home way off in the East. Nevertheless, Southern roots go deep. Gusty is a monthly book review columnist for USADEEPSOUTH.COM.

Read another of Gusty's book reviews on this page: Sela Ward’s HOMECOMING


Here's more about Southern writers and their books.
From the Charlottesville, Virginia, Daily Progress, comes this article by Liesel Nowak:
Authors cover peculiarities of the South~~Southern Family Sagas



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