Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Population 485

I doubt I would have read Michael Perry's Population 485 if it wasn't for Citizen Reader's Book Menage. I am happy to read most non-fiction, but I wasn't naturally drawn to a book about working as a volunteer fireman in a small Wisconsin town. I have to give thanks to CR, because the book is a great read.

The book is divided into a number of essays on topics like the impact of dangerous road corners, the first time you puke as an EMT, dealing with the death of someone you know on the road and living in a small town. One of my favorite chapters is called Tricky. It tells the story of a local ne'er do well named Tricky who crashes his car into the laundromat. Perry relates how the fire department deals with the accident from traffic control to triage to clean up. The accident victims bizarre behavior spices up the story and so does Perry's description of the town. He is given to multiple threads in his essays and this one features a defense of country living and lifestyles, including yard art.

Although the tone of the stories vary and the book is often quite humorous, the overall, there is an overall tone of seriousness set by the opening and closing essays. These two stories center on tragic accidents and while they are quite different they are both deeply affecting, without being exploitative. The last accident involves a family member and his treatment is particularly good here.

Perry is a great writer and a stalwart defender of small town life and I want to read his other books, Truck: A Love Story and Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Farming.


Anonymous said...

Truck is great, and I say that as someone who can change a flat tire and maybe change his own oil but no more. I find that reading his books makes me stop and take notice of the small pleasures in my own life. Steve

Citizen Reader said...

I can't tell you how pleased I am that you have enjoyed the book. Your take on its structure, the various essays put between the opening and closing chapters with their similar stories, has been very eye-opening to me. I enjoyed Truck and Coop too, I must say, but I still don't think they're as perfectly formed as this one is. But that's okay--some of the joy in reading them comes from having read this one first, I think. Can't wait to hear what you think of the next two if you read them!!

Care said...

I am very much looking forward to reading this! Great review and I'm enjoying CR's discussion threads, as well.

Tripp said...


Dude, you need to figure out the blogger sign in. Really. Powells has a nicely priced used copy of Truck. Although I have been a good library reader, I try to dedicate some of my monthly spending to Powells.


Stay tuned on the next two, as I will be reading them!


Thanks, it is a great discussion isn't it?


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