Thursday, August 15, 2013

Review: Visiting Tom by Michael Perry

There are many people in our lives whom we can learn from if we just sit down and listen to them. Listen to them not as they offer us advice and insight into being a better person but just listen to them as they tell their stories. Michael Perry's Visiting Tom is a lovely ode to his eighty two year old neighbor, Tom, and to their visits, their shared chats, and their deep and reliable friendship.

Weaving together notes from a photography session at Tom's farm highlighting the old and special features of the farm and its implements with years of visits to have Tom do some work for him or just to check in and be neighborly as well as Perry's own evolving life as a hybrid of author/farmer in rural Wisconsin, this memoir is beautiful, conversational, and eminently entertaining.

Tom is a bit of an eccentric character with decided opinions and a unique view on the world. He's lived in his house for his entire life, watching it change from a large remote farm to a piece of property with a highway slashed through it right outside the kitchen window. He and wife Arlene have been married for almost 60 years and they've raised two daughters. Tom is handy and creative both, fixing tools the county over for others, designing and implementing his own working machines, and enjoying tinkering with anything mechanical. And of course, he is carrying on a longtime love affair with vintage weaponry, gleefully firing his reproduction cannons over his driveway toward a target perched on a hill. He shares his memories of times past and the priceless stories of people and place that live on only in the minds of the old-timers.

As Perry relates Tom's stories, memories, and goofy jokes, he also opens up his own home life to his readers, discussing the joys of parenting daughters and the comfort of his own marriage. He details his own mostly gentlemanly go rounds with government and the highway commissioner about the undesirable "improvement" to the road leading to his turn. And he relates his longing for hearth and home while he is on the road traveling with the job that pays the bills (writing and promoting books like this). He shares the sentimental joys of everyday life with his girls and his own stories of growing up. And like his previous non-fiction works, Perry has written another familiar feeling, homely, reverent book. He absorbs Tom's wisdom, gleaned from his actions as much as his words, and presents this kind neighbor not as his mentor but with the unpretentious dignity befitting such. This is a meditative tale, sweet and nostalgic. It is a book to be wallowed in and, as my dad says, read slowly and with great expression. Perry might get to visit Tom regularly but with this book, we are also invited into the farmhouse kitchen to take our place at the table and listen too.  Sometimes there's no greater joy than just that.

For more information about Michael Perry and the book, check out his website, Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

And listen to Perry narrate the book trailer here:

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

  1. I truly love that time after a big family dinner when everyone sits back, relaxes, and starts telling stories. It is a time not to be missed, especially because it is so rare. This book reminds me of that time, and I simply cannot wait to read it.

    Thanks for being on the tour.


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