Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Prince of Frogtown

I have almost finished reading Rick Bragg's latest book, and I don't want it to end! The Pulitzer Prize winner and Alabama Distinguished Writer of the Year has outdone himself again.

Like his previous books, The Prince of Frogtown is rip-roaring funny, fascinating, and heartbreaking. It chronicles the life of his father, Charles Bragg, who was only mentioned briefly in previous books.

What inspired Bragg to write about his father was his relationship with his ten-year-old stepson. (He has no children of his own.) He tells the story through chapters that alternate between his father’s life story and his own experiences with fatherhood.

Since Bragg was very young when his father died, he remembers him as a hard-living, hard-fighting, hard-drinking SOB. But through numerous stories provided by his father’s remaining friends and family members, an alternative portrait emerges. The result is a somewhat gentler, faintly sympathetic look at the proud and unyielding veteran of the Korean War.

Rick Bragg is an amazing writer with a gift for choosing the exact word or allegory to make his point. You’ll find yourself chuckling in one chapter; teary-eyed in the next. But who else but a southern writer can throw laughter smack in the middle of such a tragic story? Rick Bragg doesn’t “pretty it all up” with fancy wording and flowery phrases; he just gets to the true heart of southern storytelling: the language, the metaphors, the wretchedly funny lives, the accents all rolled up into a rich and painful tale.

All Over But the Shoutin,’ a tribute to his long-suffering mother, Margaret, remains my favorite, and Ava’s Man, a tribute to his maternal grandfather, is a great read. But The Prince of Frogtown is more powerful. Through most of the book, I wanted to break Charles Bragg’s neck. But in the end I realized he never had a chance. The cards were stacked against him from day one.
Rick Bragg says The Prince of Frogtown is his final book about his family. But I hope not. I want more!


Suzanne said...

GREAT review!!!

Rhonda Hartis Smith said...

Sounds like good reading, maybe I'll get one of his books to take to the beach with me. That's when I do most of my reading--used to read a lot until I started painting.

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley