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Inspirational Reads

Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry

April 25, 2009

Last summer, I read Michael Perry's book Population: 485, which, when you got past all the mangled bodies and dead teenagers, was an enjoyable read. I'm from a small town (998 happy people...and four grouches), so I could identify--sometimes painfully--with a lot of the things that Perry discussed and described in his book. Not that it's a bad thing; I live on the outskirts of a small-sized city and would move further out if I could. Also, while there are a lot of differences between Wisconsin (where Perry lives) and Indiana (where I lived), there are also a lot of similarities, so there were times when he seemed to be writing about my hometown.

Perry continues the story of small-town life in Truck: A Love Story wherein he details the adventure of restoring his beloved 1951 International Harvester truck, meeting a woman, falling in love with her, and ultimately marrying her, all the while he tries to defeat the truculent squirrels that are constantly trying to foil his attempts at cultivating a green thumb. The "action" of the story takes place in bucolic New Auburn, Wisconsin, which is in the northwest part of the state, not too far from Minnesota. The book follows the author through the course of a year, which each month being a new chapter, which is a clever concept and makes for an easy read.

Perry is more well-known for his articles and columns in various magazines. His tastes are varied and eclectic: he is happy to discuss the finer aspects of Shakespeare's use of imagery over a cup of coffee and is equally as delighted to discuss deer hunting over a beer. He's a nurse, a volunteer firefighter, a first responder, an author, and plays in a band. About the only thing he doesn't know how to do well is fix a truck.

His experience as columnist means that his chapters are often divided into small, easily-read sections. Essentially, at times, the book is a lot like reading a collection of blog posts, just with bigger words (he's the only person--aside from a word maven--I've ever seen who used the word 'omphaloskepsis' in a book...I admit it, CowGuy, that's where I picked it up!) and a more cohesive flow to the 'posts'.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story, but then I connected with the author on a couple of levels and was familiar with his work. Truck has more humor in it than does Population: 485 and doesn't end on the depressing note that Population does. Overall, I think someone who either lives in or grew up in a small town will get more enjoyment out of Truck, but I do recommend it for anyone interested in "small town America" literature. I also recommend Population: 485, but I warn you that it's far more gruesome and graphic.

Also, obviously, if you live in the Wisconsin/Minnesota area, or ever have (as I know many of you do or have), then I think you'd like these books.

If you are unfamiliar with Michael Perry's work, you can check him out at his site,


Soda and Candy said...

and by bok I mean BOOK.


Soda and Candy said...

ooh that does sound like a good bok. I'd be interested to read a love story written by a man actually.

Scope said...

It's just a love song, from a different point of view.

Now if only I knew how to read...

Eric said...

So the... wait, he loves the truck? Huh? Oh...

Jon said...

Wasn't that Population book made into a movie? I think I caught it on basic cable the other day. Or wait, maybe that was Population 436. All I know is that Fred Durst was in it.

Kristine said...

How much did he pay you for writing this?

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Soda & Candy: Population 485 had a bit of a love story, but it was more of a tragedy. He's a good writer. It's not over-the-top the way he tells the story of meeting his eventual wife.

@ Soda & Candy: Oh, and here I thought you were talking chickens.

@ Scope: That's me in the corner. That's me in the spot light, losing my religion.

@ Eric: Actually, there is a bit of that. He describes Irma Harding, International Harvester's version of Betty Crocker, as his perfect woman.

@ Jon: Good to see you, man. And, I'm going to say Population 436 is probably less gruesome and graphic than is Population 485.

@ Kristine: Nothing. But, if Perry ever stumbles upon this review/site, I'd be more than happy to endorse any book of his if he can put me in touch with a good literary agent.

red said...

I often wish I grew up in a small town. Maybe I'll check it out and live vicariously.

Nej said...

I grew up in a small Iowa town of 303 people. In second grade, we moved to a huge metropolis of 2,883 people.

I've since moved to an actual city, but I happened to visit both small towns this weekend to see family.

I always get such a strange feeling when going back to them. Both good and bad.

Will have to check out the book for sure!

Kimizzy said...

I live in a small town, and love it, but there are certain comical/sad differences between them and large cities.

For one, old church-going people I don't even know ask me about my love life at the local grocery store.

That's always fun. Especially when I respond with, "Oh no, we weren't dating. Just fuck buddies."

Shocked expressions never cease to amuse me.

Point is, thanks for the book suggestions. I think I'll pick one up. :)

LiLu said...

I'm with S&C... a love story written by a man sounds like a nice change.

Wendy said...

How do you think Truck is if you haven't read the first one? Does it make sense if you read one without the other? Have you read "A Girl Named Zippy" by Haven Kimmel? It's an amusing small town book. I enjoyed it.

You should get some pictures of your small town and post them on Sunday so you can play in our "Small Town Snapshot Sunday"!! :)

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ Red: I think the best thing about small town life--I mean, aside from being able to see the stars--can best be summed up with the words "Church league softball fistfights".

@ Nej: I get those same strange feelings. It's a heady mix of "Why did I leave" and "Get me the hell out of here!"

@ Kimizzy: On a somewhat related note, one of the guys from my old church back home, when I was fixin' to head to head off to college, asked me what I was going to study. I said, "Chemistry, I think, or maybe biology, maybe English, I'm not sure yet." He paused and said, "Shoot, here I thought you were gonna say 'titties' or something like that."

@ LiLu: Romeo and Juliet isn't enough for you people?

@ Wendy: The two books aren't connected, other than Perry will drop occasional references like "we met this person here" or something like that. The two books are independent of one another, and so it's no problem to pick up Truck if you haven't read Population.

And, I'm sure I have some, somewhere. The water tower is the most famous one we have going of my tiny little burg.

Cowguy said...

I've never made up a word in my life... they're all real in mind.


I just added it to my next order on Amazon.

dg said...

I just googled omphaloskepsis, and apparently, I am good at it. I must admit, I don't particularly like my navel, but I can contemplate on it quite easily when I have a glass of alcohol in my hand.

dg said...

Oooh- I just read Wendy's post, and I can highly recommend "A Girl Named Zippy"! I bought that book a few years ago and plowed thru it in a few days. I laughed and laughed - wonderful story.

Vic said...

There is nothing better than a love story with truculent squirrels in in it. I need to look for these - thanks for review!

Also, Haven Kimmel. Excellent. Check her out.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

@ CowGuy: The only thing I can perhaps lay claim to is "boneriffic", which I coined one night at the bar on campus. However, I'm not going to say that no one else has ever used this particular adjective ever before in the history of language. But, still, it's one of those things I cling to tenaciously.

@ Dg: I know, there's just something funny about it. I think about mine a lot more now that I had the surgery and got the tater tot or whatever it was removed from mine. TMI? Yeah, too bad.

@ DG: I think that one of the guys that my wife works with at the Ampersand is friends with Haven Kimmel (she lives here in Durham). So, I'm familiar with her name, but I haven't read her works yet.

@ Vic: Like I told DG, I'm familiar with the name. She was born and raised in Indiana (like me) and now lives in North Carolina (like me). I think my wife read either Zippy or She Got Up off the Couch. Probably the latter. My wife said the woman sounded a lot like my mom. Read into that what you will...

Candy's daily Dandy said...

Sounds like a great summer beach read.

Thanks for the book tip.

~E said...

Ok...yea...Ive never lived in a city smaller than Renton, WA. Never been hiking camping fishing. Dont think this book would speak to me like it did you. But glad you liked it! :)

The Ambiguous Blob said...

I grew up in a small town, but "small" was 30,000 population.

Kristine said...

Your mom's a literary agent. (?)