Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Visiting Tom - Michael Perry

As I have mentioned, I am actively seeking ways to improve Read.Write.Repeat.  I want to appeal to a wider audience and increase the variety of posts.  As always, I am open to and eager for your suggestions.

One of the biggest steps I am taking now is to start participating in book tours.  For those of you who do not know, book tours are designed to help authors promote their work.  In the real world, this means a literal tour of book stores and promotional events across the country.  In the virtual world, this means scheduling your book for review on a series of blogs like this one.  

There are a variety of companies out there who organize these events.  Today, I am proud to be joining TLC Book Tours as a host.  I hope this will be the start of a long and profitable relationship. TLC does not require positive reviews; instead, they allow bloggers to speak honestly about what we have read.  They also tour a wide variety of genres.  Both of these things make me excited to work with them.

As I start my journey as a tour host, I commit to retaining quality in my book choices.  I do not want to spend my time reading a bad book any more than you want to read about one.  When TLC contacted me about Visiting Tom, I launched into my standard research on a new book.  Turns out, this book has been receiving stellar reviews around the Internet and even hit the New York Times bestseller list.  Despite it being solidly outside my typical genres of choice, I was sold.

Before you read my thoughts, you may want to take a few minutes and watch this trailer for Visiting Tom, narrated by author Michael Perry.  Seeing Tom and Arlene Hartwig helped me connect with their story on a much deeper level.  We are a visual culture, after all.  Disclaimer: If you are at work or school, you should probably wait to watch this.  Come back and enjoy it later!

Author Michael Perry hails from rural Wisconsin.  His biography paints him as an "amateur pig farmer."  He married later in life and is now father to two daughters.  He juggles life on the farm with writing and a career on the road as a "humorist" and band member.  Like many of us, Perry is carving a unique career path for himself, forever balancing the need to support a family with the desire to pursue personal passions.  Perry adds into the equation a tension between modern comforts and time-honored traditions, a subject he explores extensively through Visiting Tom.

The book focuses on an octogenarian named Tom Hartwig.  Tom lives a few miles from Perry and his family; he is a fixture in their small community.  Everyone knows Tom and most come to him for help with little farm projects.  Tom is a master tinker and has a mechanical mind able to sort out most any farm chore.   His farm is littered with decades of his labor, including several cannons he has built.  Perry, like many others who know Tom, swings by frequently for help on his own projects or to assist Tom with his.  Their relationship is the definition of neighborly.  

In Visiting Tom, Perry slowly tells the story of Tom's life and the life of his farm.  Decades ago, the sprawling acreage was divided by Eisenhower's Federal Highway Act of 1956.  Since that time, Tom and Arlene Hartwig have cohabited with the rumble of highway music.  Their old-fashioned, down-home way of life stands still as modern man rushes pace at an increasingly breakneck speed.

Perry tells a part of his own story in parallel with that of Tom.  Throughout the book, Perry recalls his year-long battle with local government.  Seemingly without consulting anyone who actually lives nearby, the road leading to Perry's farm was changed.  The change made it impossible to climb the steep hill up to the farm in winter.  By the end of the book, Perry realizes that patience with change is one of the many lessons he can be learning from his neighbor.

Ultimately, Visiting Tom tells a story much deeper than the anecdotal ones dotting the pages.  It is a love story - between Tom and Arlene, between Perry and his wife, Anneliese, between man and his work.  Perry's resounding theme is a value for what has passed and the need to learn from it. Perry acknowledges the benefits of our changing world, but he cautions against brushing aside the past.  He understands that Google holds less real answers than a man like Tom Hartwig.

Perry writes a unique type of literature.  Strictly speaking, he falls into a nonfiction classification. 'Memoir' could be used to describe his work.  Yet, there is a distinct fiction feel that comes thanks to Perry's gift for storytelling.  Perry writes conversationally, as though you were having one of those very kitchen-table conversations he glorifies in the book.  His eloquent descriptions of farm life make even me want to go watch Little House on the Prairie (Wait...by watching farm life, am I defeating the whole point?).  Better yet, I want to emulate his appreciation for the wisdom of his elders, a quality severely lacking in my generation.

What Perry may not realize is that by transcribing, processing, and publishing Tom's wisdom, he becomes the wisdom-sharing elder himself.  Visiting Tom carries a beautiful story full of tips for life both on and off the farm.  It is easily digestible and very well written.  I would imagine that Perry won't be financially dependent on that amateur pig farming for much longer if he keeps writing like this.  Of course, maybe it's the pig farming and the consequential way of life that are giving him the words to begin with.

Who's aged wisdom are you learning from these days?

Pages: 310
Date Completed: September 1, 2013

*To read others' thoughts on Visiting Tom, check out the full tour schedule.*


  1. Thank you for this peak into Michael Perry's latest book. I grew up in northern Wisconsin, and though I've been gone for nearly 40 years, Michael's books take me home within minutes. His writing does my soul good.

  2. First, thanks for your comment on MY review of this. I'm glad to be tour-buddies with you, too, and, ironically, it was my first TLC book as well, though I would have read it anyway. (I stumbled across Perry's work when one of his early books caught my eye on a bargain paperback table at Barnes and Noble, and have never regretted it, and I think it's because he IS such a great storyteller. He has a band as well, and their music doesn't suck.

    Second, this review is beautiful. I have a new appreciation for Michael Perry from reading your review.

    As to book tours, TLC and Pump Up Your Book are both really good, and both are women owned/run (something I like to support). The latter often offers first chapter reveals and first-chapter review ops, as well as guest posts from authors and "book spotlights" which are great for adding content when your to-be-read stack is a bit...unwieldy.

    1. You are so sweet! Hopefully this won't be our last experience as tour buddies.

      Thanks for the tips. I really appreciate any insight. You seem to be doing great things over at Bibliotica! You've gained at least one follower today :)

  3. This is a lovely review! You captured so much of what was great about this book. I think the note that it's a love story is totally accurate, it's a generous and kind book.

    The only group I've done regular book tours with is TLC. They're wonderful, and great about pitching books that fit into the genres you like. I hope you enjoy working with them too!

  4. I'm glad that you enjoyed this venture outside your normal reading comfort zone. Perry's books are at the top of my TBR list after seeing so many rave reviews!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour. I hope you enjoyed the experience and plan to do it again!

    1. I did enjoy it! So much so that I'm already signed up for two more tours!