What can we learn about life, love, and artillery from an 82-year-old man whose favorite hobby is firing his homemade cannons? Visit by visit - often with his young daughters in tow - author Michael Perry is about to find out.
Toiling in a shop Perry describes as "an antique store stocked by Rube Goldberg, curated by Hunter Thompson, and rearranged by a small earthquake", Tom Hartwig makes gag shovel handles, parts for quarter-million-dollar farm equipment, and - now and then - batches of potentially "extralegal" explosives. As he approaches his 60th wedding anniversary with his wife, Arlene, Tom, famous for driving a team of oxen in local parades, has an endless reservoir of stories dating back to days of his prize Model A, and an anti-authoritarian streak refreshed daily by the four-lane interstate that was shoved through his front yard in 1965 and now dumps over eight million vehicles past his kitchen window every year. And yet Visiting Tom is dominated by the elderly man's equanimity and ultimately - when he and Perry converse over the kitchen table as husbands and as the fathers of daughters - unvarnished tenderness.
©2012 Michael Perry (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
I am a clay sculptor and an art instructor at a community college. I mostly listen to audiobooks while I work in my home studio.
Michael Perry is great. If you don't want to read this, go read any of his other books (including Coop, Population 485, Truck, Off Main Street).
This latest book, like all his books, focuses on life in small-town Wisconsin. It is helpful to his writing that Perry talks to interesting people, but more important is Perry's point of view. His writing is pleasant and funny and you appreciate his perspective and way of explaining the situation.
Though the story is ostensible about Perry's visits with Tom, my favorite parts were those where Perry talks about his own troubles with the roads commission and about his approach to parenting. There are the occasional sad or touching bits too, and that makes the books "human."
Perry narrates and this is reason enough to get the audiobook instead of the book, though I read all the other books on paper. Perry is able to perfectly nail the small-town Wisconsin accent and ways of speaking. You can "hear" this on paper, at least if you've lived in WI, but it's nice to hear it for real in the audiobook.
I have already started listening to it again because I loved it so much. The stories are humorous, as you would expect from Michael Perry, and I have found myself laughing even more the second time around.
Michael Perry has an amazing way of noticing and writing about everyday occurrences in a poetic way.
Previously I listened to Population 485 and after listening to Visiting Tom I went back in time a bit and read Truck. I'm on the road a lot myself so listening to the stories are a lot more convenient for me. And listening to him read the books himself is like listening to him tell you alone a story. I'll likely wait for Coop to come out in audio format so I can enjoy it where most appropriate: on a back-road somewhere in Wisconsin.
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