Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Visiting Tom by Michael Perry

Most watchers of Wisconsin Public Television and listeners to Wisconsin Public Radio will recognize author, essayist, and musician Michael Perry.  I first "met" Michael in his book Population 485  which recounts his days on the volunteer emergency crew of New Auburn, WI, the hometown he returned to after years away as a nurse.  I had selected that book to add some current nonfiction to our high school library.  My hope that the focus on rural life and the added drama as his volunteer firemen would attract some male readers.  Since almost all books are a hard sell to male adolescents, I can't claim amazing results when this title was added to the shelves, but I still maintain that almost reader who was raised in Wisconsin and who gives Michael Perry a chance will become a fan.

Currently, Perry also emcees the Tent Show radio program which features performances from the Chautauqua Tent Theater outside Bayfield, WI.  My husband happens to have a classmate who volunteers at the "big top" so when I saw her this summer at a reunion, I asked her about Michael.  
She confirmed that he really was a great guy and then said his newest book was really his best.  That, of course, led me to getting a copy of Visiting Tom from the library. 
 Screen Shot  In this title, Perry continues his journey of reflecting on rural Wisconsin, how it is changing including what is being lost and his thoughts of what should be preserved.  This time the book revolves around 1. Tom, his eighty+ year old neighbor, a sort of tinker who loves to shoot off a couple old cannons he has on his farm and 2. a year long tussle Perry has with the county highway commission regarding " a road improvement" which makes his family's daily drive more dangerous.  What comes across in the book is Perry's gift in valuing the small things in life, including those labeled as too old or too young by the rest of the world.  He has the ability to see that our heritage lies not only in the chapters of history book and the walls of museums, but also is found in the stories of a weary farmer and his wife of sixty years.  It is also found in the old silos and farm houses that unfortunately must be demolished for progress.  Perry has the sensitivity to recognize that the new highway bypass he appreciates when heading out to an accident or even a family drive has swallowed up the terrain of his childhood -- the rocks, fields, and wetlands that were the backdrop for some of his best memories.

I would give this book a high 4.5 and hope that Perry continues to balance his life as father, husband, sort of farmer, musician, comedian, and writer.  Just as we all have different moods, I think Perry's mood in this title is a tad more serious than that of my all-time favorite Coop.  In Visiting Tom, I found myself nodding in agreement and appreciating that someone was putting such thoughts into print, but when I read Coop I was laughing out loud, thinking this guy is something else!  In all, I appreciate meeting both sides of a talented writer!

Currently, more and more authors and publicists are creating video book trailers and other creative ways to promote new titles.  We, as readers, are a hotly pursued commodity.  To help a favorite Wisconsin author, here is a link to his website and also his Youtube video about Visiting Tom.

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