In this final volume of the beloved American saga that began with All Over but the Shoutin’ and continued with Ava’s Man, Rick Bragg closes his circle of family stories with an unforgettable tale about fathers and sons inspired by his own relationship with his ten-year-old stepson.
He learns, right from the start, that a man who chases a woman with a child is like a dog who chases a car and wins. He discovers that he is unsuited to fatherhood, unsuited to fathering this boy in particular, a boy who does not know how to throw a punch and doesn’t need to; a boy accustomed to love and affection rather than violence and neglect; in short, a boy wholly unlike the child Rick once was, and who longs for a relationship with Rick that Rick hasn’t the first inkling of how to embark on. With the weight of this new boy tugging at his clothes, Rick sets out to understand his father, his son, and himself.
The Prince of Frogtown documents a mesmerizing journey back in time to the lush Alabama landscape of Rick’s youth, to Jacksonville’s one-hundred-year-old mill, the town’s blight and salvation; and to a troubled, charismatic hustler coming of age in its shadow, Rick’s father, a man bound to bring harm even to those he truly loves. And the book documents the unexpected corollary to it, the marvelous journey of Rick’s later life: a journey into fatherhood, and toward a child for whom he comes to feel a devotion that staggers him. With candor, insight, tremendous humor, and the remarkable gift for descriptive storytelling on which he made his name, Rick Bragg delivers a brilliant and moving rumination on the lives of boys and men, a poignant reflection on what it means to be a father and a son.
Bragg (All Over but the Shoutin') continues to mine his East Alabama family history for stories, this time focusing on the life of his alcoholic father. Unlike his previous two memoirs, Bragg merges his father's history of severe hardships and simple joys with a tale from the present: his own relationship with his 10-year-old stepson. Bragg crafts flowing sentences that vividly describe the southern Appalachian landscape and ways of life both old and new. The title comes from his father, who grew up in the mill village in Jacksonville, Ala., a dirt-poor neighborhood known as Frogtown, a place where they didn't bother to name the streets, but simply assigned letters. His father's story walks the line between humorous and heartbreaking, mixing tales of tipping over outhouses as a child and stealing an alligator from a roadside show in Florida with the stark tragedies of drunkenness, brawling, dog fighting, chain gangs, meanness and his early death from tuberculosis. Juxtaposed with vignettes about Bragg's stepson, this memoir has great perspective as the reader sees Bragg, the son of a dysfunctional father who grew up very poor, grapple with becoming the father of a modern-day mama's boy. This book, much like his previous two memoirs, is lush with narratives about manhood, fathers and sons, families and the changing face of the rural South.