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

visiting tom cover imageVisiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace

Michael Perry
Memoirs
Harper
Hardcover, 320 pages
$24.99

"Weaaahhll", as Tom Hartwig might say with his drawled-out prefatory "well", "this here's a pretty good book. Good pictures, too". And Tom would be right. It's vintage Michael Perry with his reverence for life in the country and his self-deprecatory assessment of his own place in it. In repeated visits to his octogenarian neighbors, Tom and Arlene, Perry teases out old-time, home-spun wisdom and tests himself against it. The tone and vernacular are just right and the parallel stories of the intrusion of the interstate highway into the Hartwig's front yard and Perry's own struggle with the county road commissioner play off each other perfectly. Lurking beneath the breezy, cornpone style at the surface is a truly sophisticated foundation. We hear from Montaigne and Rimbaud, see Tom's appearance compared to that of Samuel Beckett, and are even referred to the uber-nostalgic Portuguese notion of saudade. Take this book seriously!