Review: Visiting Tom by Michael Perry


Visting Tom
Michael Perry

Product Description (from
Tuesdays with Morrie meets Bill Bryson in Visiting Tom, another witty, poignant, and stylish paean to living in New Auburn, Wisconsin, from Michael Perry. The author of Population: 485, Coop, and Truck: A Love Story, Perry takes us along on his uplifting visits with his octogenarian neighbor one valley over—and celebrates the wisdom, heart, and sass of a vanishing generation that embodies the indomitable spirit of small-town America.

My Thoughts:
I first encountered Michael Perry’s work sometime in 2009 when I picked up Population: 485 from a “new paperbacks” table at Barnes and Nobel (this was before most of my reading shifted to Kindle). For some reason I didn’t read it until February, 2010, but I loved it to bits. He’s got that truly American writing style that is shared by Stephen King (except Perry’s books never include killer clowns or radioactive spaceships, though one did involve a pig being butchered), and Garrisson Keillor. You can hear echoes of Twain and Hemingway in his prose, as well, but I digress.

When, earlier this summer, the lovely folks at TLC Book Tours offered me a copy of the newly released PAPERBACK version of Perry’s latest offering, in exchange for an honest review, I didn’t hesitate: I said YES.

Michael Perry’s book Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace arrived at my door a couple of weeks later, and I chose to savor it, rather than devouring it in a matter of hours in my typical fashion.

I’m glad I made that choice, because reading Perry’s book, about a series of visits with an older neighbor who shares shopwork expertise, life experiences that cannot be matched, and a fetish for vintage artillery (i.e. canons), is a book meant to slow us down for a while. It’s the literary equivalent of staying seated at the kitchen table, talking and laughing, long after the meal has been finished, and the coffee has gone cold.

Like so much of Perry’s work, Visiting Tom tells two stories. The first, most obvious one, is that of Tom Hartwig, who has spent his entire 80-plus years in the same community – the same farm – the same HOUSE, even – in rural Wisconsin.

But the second story is Perry’s own, the one in which his farming is something he dabbles at along side his real job (writing and making music), and his relationship with his daughters and wife provides him another set of mirrors into the world.

This book, like all of Perry’s work, is – by turns, funny, sweet, alarming, and poignant. It’s that poignance that affected me most, because my husband’s family also hails from rural farming country, and in Tom, and in his story, I see, not only bits of my father-in-law, but also the very real truth: that family farms are disappearing, that most rural kids grow up and leave the farm (neither my husband nor his two siblings stayed in a rural environment, or, indeed, a related career, choosing instead to work with computers, or, in the case of my sister-in-law, to teach in public schools.)

But I’m digressing again.

Perry’s words let us feel as if we, too, have visited, not just with Tom and his wife and their dog, but with Michael Perry and his family as well.

And really, that’s how the best books SHOULD feel.

Goes well with: A glass of fresh milk and a slice of strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Connect with Michael Perry:
Website: Sneezing Cow

Buy the Book: | Barnes and Noble

Watch the Trailer:

TLC Book Tours