What can we learn about life, love, and artillery from an eighty-two-year-old man whose favorite hobby is firing his homemade cannons? Visit by visit often with his young daughters in tow author Michael Perry is about to find out.
Toiling in a shop Perry describes as "an antique store stocked by Rube Goldberg, curated by Hunter Thompson, and rearranged by a small earthquake," Tom Hartwig makes gag shovel handles, parts for quarter-million-dollar farm equipment, and now and then batches of potentially "extralegal" explosives. As he approaches his sixtieth wedding anniversary with his wife, Arlene, Tom, famous for driving a team of oxen in local parades, has an endless reservoir of stories dating back to days of his prize Model A, and an anti-authoritarian streak refreshed daily by the four-lane interstate that was shoved through his front yard in 1965 and now dumps over 8 million vehicles past his kitchen window every year. And yet Visiting Tom is dominated by the elderly man's equanimity and ultimately when he and Perry converse over the kitchen table as husbands and as the fathers of daughters unvarnished tenderness.
“Drop whatever you are doing and sit down to read Michael Perry’s Visiting Tom….Perry is a craftsman of the highest order….When you go back to doing what you were doing when you picked up this book, you might just see your world with a broader, more humane perspective.”
-New York Journal of Books
“Warmhearted….engaging….down-to-earth and genuine.”
“Funnier than Keillor.”
“Visiting Tom is more than just a whimsical portrait of a unique character. It’s a meditation on modernity and self-reliance that sneaks up on you with its unexpected depth.”
“Michael Perry writes the words that create the memoirs that make so many of us want to raise chickens and pigs, plant a few rows of corn or otherwise just make hay. Mostly, though, he makes us want to get to know our neighbors better - no matter where we live.”
-Experience Wisconsin Magazine
“The portrait Mr. Perry paints...is of a place and a life that is worth noting….His writing is beautiful and immediate and elegant.”
-Wall Street Journal
“[Perry] is a sharp and empathetic observer.”
“In Visiting Tom, a story that melds Perry’s unique humor with notes of Garrison Keillor and Billy Bryson, the elderly man’s tenderness and character jump off the page as he shares his thoughts on life and love.”
“It’s part memoir, part character piece. There’s a bit of the poetic to it. It’s about fighting bureaucracy, Foxfire-ish self-sustenance, life the ‘old timer’s’ way, and male-bonding foolishness. It’s about fatherhood, marriage and love. And it’s just about one of the sweetest books you’ll ever read.”
-Daily Sparks Tribune
“Charming and humorous.”