Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting

Michael Perry, Author . HarperCollins $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-124043-0

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)

Reviewed on: 02/16/2009
Release date: 04/01/2009
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