The author takes up farming and gathers memories after moving to a Wisconsin homestead with his wife and daughter.
Though he grew up on a farm, Men’s Health contributing editor Perry (Truck, 2006, etc.) doesn’t pretend to be a son of the soil. He lives mostly in his head and through his eyes. His tasks around the farm are discreet enthusiasms and bemusements rather than vexing chores. He also has a complete set of anxieties, from his wife wanting a home birth for their impending child to making sure he doesn’t deglove his hand—that is, remove all the tissue so that only the bones remain—in a whirling piece of machinery. At the beginning of this memoir, after gently reflecting on a slice of his past, Perry writes, “It would be sweet to noodle along in this minor key, but I’m stopping now”—then he noodles right on. He notes with affection that his wife can blow her nose without the aid of a hanky (“now there is a woman who can endure”), grimly ponders the axe-blow-to-BTU ratio of his woodcutting, experiences the winter night’s air as “tin-pail cold against my nose” and stands rapt with his six-year-old daughter as their dog eats a dead rabbit. (He later has the bright idea of feeding some dead rabbits to his pigs.) He frequently thinks back on his farm childhood, marveling at how his devoutly religious parents made ends meet as they welcomed dozens of abandoned, mistreated or otherwise lost children into their home. Because Perry is an adept storyteller, he balances the sweeter sections with passages evoking the sting of loss and grief—not unduly, but enough to recall the impermanence of life and the swiftness of its transformations.
Dryly humorous, mildly neurotic and just plain soulful—a book that might even make you want to buy a few chickens.