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Bragg did know that his grandmother Ava would still light up at the memory of her husband, decades after he died. He also knew that his family mourned his grandfather deeply, though they spoke of him little. Bragg wrote, "What kind of man was this, I wondered, who is so beloved, so missed, that the mere mention of his death would make them cry 42 years after he was preached into the sky?"

Bragg decided that such a man surely deserves a book. "Ava's Man" is both successor and prequel to Bragg's best-selling memoir, "All Over But the Shoutin'."

The deeply personal and bitter "Shoutin'" chronicled the struggle of Bragg's mother, raising her family in the face of poverty and a cruel alcoholic husband. "Ava's Man" looks back one generation more, to his mother's roots and the source of her strength, Charlie Bundrum.

Bragg openly admits that his grandfather was a poor man "who was bad to drink too much, miss his turn into the driveway and run over his own mailbox."

Still, Charlie Bundrum scrounged a living for his family during the Great Depression in rural Alabama. He brought not only food, clothing and shelter to his children, but also joy. He is a symbol of the Southern traditions of hard work and independence.

Because this book is a memoir, it is essential that the writer himself be appealing. Otherwise, such a personal story would become uninteresting.

At its core, Bragg's book is a eulogy, not only to the man he never met, but to a place and time gone with him. The collection of colorful tall tales about his grandfather evoke nostalgia for a South full of dust and poverty.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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