In the decade of the Great Depression, Charlie moved his family twenty-one times, keeping seven children one step ahead of the poverty and starvation that threatened them from every side. He worked at the steel mill when the steel was rolling, or for a side of bacon or a bushel of peaches when it wasn't. He paid the doctor who delivered his fourth daughter, Margaret Bragg's mother with a jar of whiskey. He understood the finer points of the law as it applied to poor people and drinking men; he was a banjo player and a buck dancer who worked off fines when life got a little sideways, and he sang when he was drunk, where other men fought or cussed. He had a talent for living.
His children revered him. When he died, cars lined the blacktop for more than a mile.
In less capable hands, this biography could have been mawkish and mundane. Instead, Bragg's telling of his maternal grandfather's life is eloquent and touching, and his spare prose is alive with fresh metaphors and memorable sentences. Bragg never knew Charlie Bundrum, who died prematurely at age 51 in 1958; the story of this proud, flawed, loving and much-loved hero of Depression-era Appalachia is derived from family and community oral history. Interestingly, this book emerged because readers of Bragg's bestselling book about his mother, Ava (All Over but the Shoutin'), wanted to understand the force that drove her to be such a strong figure. Few actors could have read this work as well as the author has. Bragg's Appalachian accent, slightly polished by Northern living, adds authenticity to the fine, funny and painful anecdotes that made up his grandfather's life and to the feelings each story encompasses. His smooth reading enhances the rhythms and sounds of his prose, rendering with genuine sincerity his deep admiration for his people and for the vanishing culture they represent. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.