Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace

Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace

by Michael Perry


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“Somewhere between Garrison Keillor’s idyllic-sweet Lake Wobegon and the narrow-mindedness of Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street lies the reality of small-town life. This is where Michael Perry lives.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press

“Perry can take comfort in the power of his writing, his ability to pull readers from all corners onto his Wisconsin spread, and make them feel right at home.”
Seattle Times

Tuesdays with Morrie meets Bill Bryson in Visiting Tom, another witty, poignant, and stylish paean to living in New Auburn, Wisconsin, from Michael Perry. The author of Population: 485, Coop, and Truck: A Love Story, Perry takes us along on his uplifting visits with his octogenarian neighbor one valley over—and celebrates the wisdom, heart, and sass of a vanishing generation that embodies the indomitable spirit of small-town America.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061894466
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/08/2016
Series: P.S.
Pages: 310
Sales rank: 589,239
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Michael Perry is a humorist, radio host, songwriter, and the New York Times bestselling author of several nonfiction books, including Visiting Tom and Population: 485, as well as a novel, The Jesus Cow. He lives in northern Wisconsin with his family and can be found online at

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Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
AprilGobbLR More than 1 year ago
Visiting Tom is a literary gift. The stories are all enjoyable and well told.
sandiek More than 1 year ago
Visiting Tom, Michael Perry's latest memoir, gives readers another view into Perry's rural farm life in Wisconsin. Perry was a bachelor into his forties, when he met and married Anneliese. Anneliese had a daughter and they soon had another daughter together. They have lived on a farm for the past five years surrounded by chickens and pigs, performing the familiar chores that have sustained farmers and their families for generations. Perry was trained as a nurse, and still goes on EMT runs and works with the firefighters. He is also often on the road, lecturing about his life and the glories of family and farm life. But his life and his love is his family and the land they occupy and which sustains them. This book is organized around two themes. The main theme is Perry's neighbor, Tom, an octogenarian who farms, welds, keeps bees and in general is one of the handiest men Perry knows. He and his wife spend a lot of time with Tom and his wife Arlene, soaking up their wisdom and the stories of their life. The second theme is Perry's ongoing argument with the local road commissioners, who after years have decided to make a road change. While it makes an intersection safer according to regulations, it makes the trip up the hill to the Perry farm difficult and sometimes impossible in the winter. Perry spends over a year protesting the decision and its effects. Those readers who have encountered Perry below will sink into this book as into a warm comfortable, familiar bed; full of comfort and good cheer. Those new to his work have a real treat in store as they read of a family that dares to slow down and value the way things used to be, when a family depended on each other and the neighbors that surrounded them. It is a quintessential feel-good book and readers will enjoy their time visiting with the Perry family.
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
Michael and his family live on a farm in rural Wisconsin. At the present, he is earning a living as a writer but he has not lost touch with his family’s deep agricultural roots. His first visit to his present neighbor’s, Tom Hartwig, kitchen was “a place I’d never visited, but I knew where I was.” The book he has written about his 82-year-old neighbor has the feel of that first “kitchen” visit – warm, direct, informative, humorous, and homey – it speaks directly to one’s soul. Tom Hartwig’s family has farmed the land he now inhabits for over 150 years. His great-grandparents having built the farmhouse in which he lives when they settled there in the mid-1800’s. In the 1970’s, the state of Wisconsin determined a new interstate highway was needed, the path of which was through the Hartwig farm. The Right-of-Way made an “island” of 35 acres of once productive farmland and condemned 18 acres of the farm for “Eminent Domain.” This roadway now passes within 100 yards of his storage silo. For the past 40 years, the Hartwigs have thrived in their lives with 8 million vehicles a year passing within a throw distance from his property. Mr. Hartwig is the quintessential Mid-Western farmer. He tinkers with more projects than a kindergarten class, has encyclopedic knowledge of military armory and is the go-to person in his county when someone needs any welding done. A tour around his farm gives the reader a glimpse into the diversity of his talents. On the drive up to the house, one is met by staring down the barrel of a working cannon (he creates and fires working scale replicas of such). His barn is filled with his creations: a welding unit, grain reaper, snow blower, etc. His chronological age is not reflected by his actions; he is in constant motion and continues to actively farm. This is the kind of person everyone wants as a neighbor but few of us are blessed to have. This is a story of being neighborly, sustaining one’s Self, defining “Self” from within and how family, once again, includes those with whom we do not share DNA. The author achieves his goal of “involving” the reader by writing from the 1st person perspective (without undue personal assessments) and by having a sharp eye, inquisitive mind and the ability to translate his experience into good prose. The author’s admiration for his neighbor is evident and justified. There are no vulgarities, sexual situations or violence to be found in this book, any of that would not be “neighborly.” This is the first of Mr. Perry’s books I have read, but it will not be the last. I like “sittin’ a spell” with him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We borrowed Visiting Tom from the library and listened to it in our car. Even avid readers will enjoy the audiobook edition, especially if they are Wisconsin natives, as are we. We loved hearing the author read in his unmistakeable Wisconsin dialect of his relationship with his eccentric, creative, loveable neighbor Tom, a keen observer of human (and governmental) foibles. Tom's practical inventions would impress Edison. His use of found materials makes him a world class environmentalist. His dedication to using his skills to create sight gag machinery would astonish research and development engineers. His use of explosives will frighten every parent. The intergenerational friendship that grows between the author's and Tom's families is enviable. The author's love of his wife and children and the life lessons he hopes his girls learn from Tom and his wife leave us wistful. We will use this book in printed form and on CD as gifts for friends and family. We are adding the softcover to our own library.
RicoGM More than 1 year ago
This is a well written chronicle of American life. It is not a novel but an annotation of life in rural America. Michael Perry writes from the heart and pens words of sincerity, honesty, and clarity to describe relationships to honor peoples' existence. The only negatives come from our relationships with government and how we let "IT" change our lives but not without putting up resistance. Even these descriptions are telling and straight forward.
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