Is it just me or do Southern writers have some special poetry of language that the rest of us lack. William Faulkner, James Dickey, Pat Conroy, Harper Lee and Rick Bragg each in their own way write in a manner that places you firmly within the story. When I read books by these authors, I feel like I am listening to an old friend as he shares his story with me. I know very little about the south except from the literary world and yet it is as real to me as the Kansas plains I grew up in. Rick Bragg excels at telling the histories of his family, his neighbors and the economy of their time. The Most They Ever Had is a collection of non fiction stories about people who worked in the Cotton Mills of long ago. These are portraits of people who valued loyalty and independence, who took suffering as their due and would rather work in a mill under horrendous conditions than be thought of as unemployed. As I write this, I guess it sounds depressing but it is not. Instead it is a verbal portrait of an extinct way of life and like any way of life, there is joy and sorrow. I recommend this book.