I took a chance on this book and finished it even though it just didn't resonate with me in the beginning. The book describes itself as a biography of the author's mother, but it is far more an autobiography of the author, Rick Bragg.
The author has a lot of hubris, or false pride as his mother would have said, but I would define it differently than she. He acts cocky, brags a lot and seems, seems being the key word here, proud of his bad behavior. I don't buy that. I don't think that people really can be proud of behaving badly, using poor manners, mistreating women and all that stuff. But, you can see the strutting in the words. I think it's all false. And so, at first I really didn't like this book or the character of the man as much as I just felt bad for him.
But that I would feel bad for him is maybe where the strutting comes from. He doesn't want you to feel bad for him, Rick Bragg, writer for the New York Times and winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
It is hard not to sorrow for him and for his mother though as your read an account of poverty, alcoholism, faithlessness and abuse, all of which were characteristics of his father. And, this is not an intimate tale, Bragg keeps you at a distance from his heart in this book. But, as the author himself points out... he's used that stuff, that alcoholism and abuse to his own purpose. All of it together made a man who could witness atrocities from hurricane Andrew to Oklahoma City to Haiti, who could write the stories that needed to be told there and walk away. We need people like that in our society, unfortunately. We have to have people who can walk into the broken places in the world and tell us what is there or we would never be able to fix it. I am grateful for people like that. They contribute in a big way.
And so, while I disagree with the class warfare that Rick Bragg seems to need to wage, and I disagree with how he relates to the women he dates... very destructive if you ask me, but I respect his loyalty to his family and his attempts to repay his mother for her goodness. I respect the courage it must take to tell these stories and the control it would require to tell them and then to close your eyes at night and sleep after the telling. That is toughness.
If you are a person who finds that a great book is a book that will show you a different place and perspective and really make you think, this is a great book.