- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Harper (May 19, 2015)
The New York Times bestselling humorist Michael Perry makes his fiction debut with this hilarious and bighearted tale—a comic yet sincere exploration of faith in the face of the modern world.
Life is suddenly full of drama for low-key Harley Jackson: A woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor’s heart; a Hummer- driving developer hooked on self-improvement audiobooks is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm; and inside his barn lies a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. Harley’s best friend, Billy, a giant of a man who shares his trailer house with a herd of cats and tries to pass off country music lyrics as philosophy, urges him to sidestep the woman, fight the developer, and get rich off the calf. But Harley takes the opposite tack, hoping to avoid what his devout, dearly departed mother would have called “a scene.”
Then the secret gets out—right through the barn door—and Harley’s “miracle” goes viral. Within hours, pilgrims, grifters, and the media have descended on his quiet patch of Swivel, Wisconsin, looking for a glimpse (and a per- centage) of the calf. Does Harley hide the famous, possibly holy, calf and risk a riot, or give the people what they want—and in the process raise enough money to keep his land and, just maybe, win the woman in the big red pickup?
Harley goes all in, cutting a deal with a major Hollywood agent that transforms his little farm into an international spiritual theme park—think Lourdes, only with cheese curds and souvenir snow globes. Soon, Harley has lots of money . . . and more trouble than he ever dreamed.
Buy, read, and discuss The Jesus Cow
Michael Perry is a humorist, radio host, songwriter, and the New York Times bestselling author of several nonfiction books, including Visiting Tom and Population: 485. He lives in rural Wisconsin with his family.
Connect with Michael
I’ve been reading Michael Perry‘s memoirs for years now, having first “met” him when I picked up a copy of Population: 485 on the discount rack at Barnes and Noble. In fact, my first review for TLC Book Tours was Perry’s Visiting Tom. He writes with this tone that combines intelligence (he listens to NPR) and cozy Americana (like Garrison Keillor without the collection of tag lines, or Stephen King without the killer clowns and sadistic vampires), and it’s that unassuming style that sucks you into his writing.
The Jesus Cow is Michael’s first novel. (Can I call him Michael? After reading so much of his writing, I feel like we’re on a first name basis, or should be). I have to admit I was a bit concerned that what works so well in personal stories might not translate to fiction, and I have to say, I’ve never been more glad to be wrong. First, this is absolutely, unmistakeably a Michael Perry book. Second, it’s also absolutely, unmistakeably fiction.
Oh, sure, The Jesus Cow pays the same attention to the details of rural small-town life that Perry’s other work does, and addresses (if somewhat obliquely) what is happening in our agricultural communities – something he’s never shied away from discussing, but it’s also just a story: a story of a man, a calf, and the preposterous situation surrounding the two.
I feel safe saying that only Michael Perry could tell a story like this, and make it feel so real that you want to leap out of your chair and drive to Wisconsin. He has given us a collection of memorable characters: Harley, Billy, Klute, Carolyn, Maggie, and Mindy all have distinct voices, and feel like people you’ve run into at the mini-mart. (I’m quite certain we’ve driven behind Carolyn’s Subaru, actually). He’s got a knack for setting a scene that I actually envy. And he does it all with an economy of phrase that Hemingway would hate because he’d feel threatened by it.
Reading The Jesus Cow won’t change your life, but it will give you a glimpse into rural America that is filtered through the lens of fiction, and if nothing else, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll want to invite a friend over for a “staff meeting” that involves gathering around the kitchen table with a couple of beers.
Goes well with a farmhouse breakfast of eggs, bacon and hashbrowns, OR, a couple of doughnuts from the mini-mart, washed down with a giant cup of coffee.
Want to read this book? If you have a USA mailing address (sorry, this one’s US only), enter to win a copy. ONE winner will be selected next Tuesday and notified by email, as well as on this blog.
How to enter? Leave a comment on this post before 11:59 PM US Central Daylight Time on Monday, June 8th telling me about your favorite roadside attraction. OR follow @Melysse on Twitter and retweet my post about this review.
Tuesday, May 19th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Thursday, May 21st: Buried Under Books
Friday, May 22nd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, May 25th: Jen’s Book Thoughts
Tuesday, May 26th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Wednesday, May 27th: Gspotsylvania: Musings from a Spotsylvania Dog and Bird Mom
Thursday, May 28th: girlichef
Tuesday, June 2nd: Bibliotica
Wednesday, June 3rd: BookNAround
Thursday, June 4th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach
Monday, June 8th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, June 9th: Living in the Kitchen with Puppies
Wednesday, June 10th: Apples and Arteries
Thursday, June 11th: A Dream Within a Dream
Friday, June 12th: Imaginary Reads