Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg

Overview

In over his head with two pigs, a dozen chickens, and a baby due any minute, the acclaimed author of Truck: A Love Story gives us a humorous, heartfelt memoir of a new life in the country.

Last seen sleeping off his wedding night in the back of a 1951 International Harvester pickup, Michael Perry is now living in a rickety Wisconsin farmhouse. Faced with thirty-seven acres of fallen fences and overgrown fields, and informed by his pregnant wife that she intends to deliver their ...

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Overview

In over his head with two pigs, a dozen chickens, and a baby due any minute, the acclaimed author of Truck: A Love Story gives us a humorous, heartfelt memoir of a new life in the country.

Last seen sleeping off his wedding night in the back of a 1951 International Harvester pickup, Michael Perry is now living in a rickety Wisconsin farmhouse. Faced with thirty-seven acres of fallen fences and overgrown fields, and informed by his pregnant wife that she intends to deliver their baby at home, Perry plumbs his unorthodox childhood—his city-bred parents took in more than a hundred foster children while running a ramshackle dairy farm—for clues to how to proceed as a farmer, a husband, and a father.

And when his daughter Amy starts asking about God, Perry is called upon to answer questions for which he's not quite prepared. He muses on his upbringing in an obscure fundamentalist Christian sect and weighs the long-lost faith of his childhood against the skeptical alternative ("You cannot toss your seven-year-old a copy of Being and Nothingness").

Whether Perry is recalling his childhood ("I first perceived my father as a farmer the night he drove home with a giant lactating Holstein tethered to the bumper of his Ford Falcon") or what it's like to be bitten in the butt while wrestling a pig ("two firsts in one day"), Coop is filled with the humor his readers have come to expect. But Perry also writes from the quieter corners of his heart, chronicling experiences as joyful as the birth of his child and as devastating as the death of a dear friend.

Alternately hilarious, tender, and as real as pigs in mud, Coop is suffused with a contemporary desire to reconnect with the earth, with neighbors, with meaning . . . and with chickens.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Michael Perry's website features a portrait of "the artist as a young man." The photograph pictures a small boy picking his nose. That sense of unpretentious realism is one of the reasons that readers find his lighthearted prose so appealing. Certainly, you couldn't find a more modest man; the author of Population 485 claims that he bases his writing career on the principle he learned cleaning pens: "Just keep shoveling, and eventually you've got a pile so big, someone will notice." However, Coop, his collection of rural Wisconsin reflections, possesses an aroma all its own. Perry's acute observations and writing skills give us access to a farmyard world that now seems remote to most of us, which only makes it more fascinating.
Publishers Weekly

Perry (Population: 485) is that nowadays rare memoirist whose eccentric upbringing inspires him to humor and sympathetic insight instead of trauma mongering and self-pity. His latest essays chronicle a year on 37 acres of land with his wife, daughters and titular menagerie of livestock (who are fascinating, exasperating personalities in their own right). But these luminous pieces meander back to his childhood on the hardscrabble Wisconsin dairy farm where his parents, members of a tiny fundamentalist Christian sect, raised him and dozens of siblings and foster-siblings, many of them disabled. Perry's latter-day story is a lifestyle-farming comedy, as he juggles freelance writing assignments with the feedings, chores and construction projects that he hopes will lend him some mud-spattered authenticity. Woven through are tender, uncloying recollections of the homespun virtues of his family and community, from which sprout lessons on the labors and rewards of nurturance (and the occasional need to slaughter what you've nurtured). Perry writes vividly about rural life; peck at any sentence-"One of the [chickens] stretches, one leg and one wing back in the manner of a ballet dancer warming up before the barre"-and you'll find a poetic evocation of barnyard grace. Photos. (May)

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Kirkus Reviews
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-abook that might even make you want to buy a few chickens.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781480536609
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 7/16/2013
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Sales rank: 1,443,634
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Perry
Michael Perry has written for numerous publications, including Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, Salon, and the Utne Reader. A contributing editor to Men's Health, he lives in northern Wisconsin with his family.
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