In Swivel, Wisconsin, a cow named Tina Turner has birthed a calf with Jesus’ image on its flank, "the standard doe-eye Lutheran hippie iteration."
Drawing small-town characters out of central casting, Perry’s tale ripples with simple-life nostalgia. Tina Turner’s owner, Harley Jackson, says, "Well, that’s trouble" after seeing the calf’s "above average stencil of the Son of God." Forty-something Harley lives alone on the remnants of his parents’ farm. Most of the land was gobbled up by an interstate highway and the machinations of developer Klute Sorenson, who learns business strategy from audiobooks like Stomp Your Way to Success: A Clodhopper Walks All Over Wall Street. Harley’s best friend, supersized Billy Tripp, a trailer-living, clog-wearing cat fancier, wisely knows there’s money to be made when folks begin "assigning meaning to coincidence." At a staff meeting over bottles of Foamy Viking beer, Billy urges reluctant Harley to cash in and finance "undevelopment" of Klute’s tacky McMansions. Then the calf is seen by Harley’s mail carrier. Believing it miraculous, she calls the Rev. Gary at the Church of the Roaring Lamb. Soon, Sloan Knight of International Talent Management jets in, because there’s "a hard horizon on long-term marketability thematics." Another fly in the ointment is Carolyn Sawchuck, former professor and current environmentalist, who survives on EarthHug tea and Little Debbie Zebra Cakes while secreting used motor oil in Swivel’s abandoned water tower. Add a tow-truck–driving, junkyard-owning widow; a techno-gadget–entranced fire chief; a Barney Fife constable; and town newcomer Mindy, a sculptwelder who breaks Harley’s heart, and it’s sure to end with a bang.
Good fun abounds when JCOW Enterprises sets up business and Harley’s life becomes "a rough approximation of things hoped for."