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Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting

by Michael Perry

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3752849,398 (3.86)12
In over his head with two pigs, a dozen chickens, and a baby due any minute, Perry gives us a humorous, heartfelt memoir of a new life in the country.

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Coop was the only non-Canadian book I read this month, but it arrived at the library for me so it went on the reading pile. I had ordered it because I’m always on the lookout for books about country living by people who have an empathy for city sensibilities, and I have a couple of other books by Michael Perry that have intrigued me in the past on my own bookshelves (unread yet).

One of my favourite excerpts (describing the house he grew up in New Auburn Wisconsin):

“Moving from the kitchen to the living room, you step up a four-inch riser; keep moving on the same plane around a central wall, and you will circle right back to the riser, having never stepped down.”

This tickles me because we have the same sort of situation in the oldest part of our (“renovated”) farmhouse – around that “central wall”.

Perry infuses much humour while imparting great country living (and parenting) experiences in an easy-to-read narrative. Recommended.

4 stars ( )
  ParadisePorch | Mar 21, 2018 |

Reluctantly, even shamefully, I will admit that often the book felt tiresome. Perry’s old self-deprecating humor however was skillfully interlaced between fits and starts of the author creating a working farm in midst of his learning to become a husband, father, and respected writer of the first rank. But you won’t find Perry bragging about any of his accomplishments, only the sometimes hilarious reporting of his daily grind at being the best he can muster on every front. Given that his previous memoir titled [b:Truck: A Love Story|73967|Truck A Love Story|Michael Perry|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1386921704s/73967.jpg|71564] continued his elaboration on a life [a:Michael Perry|2772479|Michael Perry|https://images.gr-assets.com/authors/1231631186p2/2772479.jpg] has been documenting now for several years, the complete rebuilding of his favored International in that previous book interested me little as things mechanical are not my cup of tea. But his progressive story throughout that book remained for me quite interesting. And in [b:Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting|5633583|Coop A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting|Michael Perry|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1347340530s/5633583.jpg|5805003] he manages again to record a life that novels are made of. He could not have made this story up. The tragedies that occur are monumental in his retelling of them. The gratitude he expresses for what he has is relentless. And that is what also feels a bit tiresome at times. How can a person be this good?

But when Perry writes for example of the surprise death of his brother Jed’s young son it all comes crashing in on me. The wrongfulness of my criticism becomes ridiculous. There has never been a novel or memoir that affected me as the specific Chapter Eight did. Immediately I was made an emotional wreck, even in the realization that my heart was still in good hands with Michael Perry guiding me. My attempts to convey to my wife just what I had read brought me almost to my knees with grief as I babbled on as a broken invalid in my caving-in and near destruction. And as much as I actually cried over his wonderful poetic prose the words were never sentimental in the disgusting degree we as readers are generally subjected to in regards to pain and loss. The words resound in their beauty and grace. I cannot get his prose from off my plate. And to swallow it whole would be courageous, but for me at least, that will have to wait. I am a chicken at best, running out of time, and still not the man I want to be.

Michael Perry’s personal story continues to unfold as the sometimes haphazard events occur among his friends and family. All the while, in the midst of it all, Perry writes and works toward a literary mastery rarely observed in what generally gets published today. Cheers again for Michael Perry. ( )
1 vote MSarki | Jan 7, 2018 |
This is the third of Michael Perry’s memoirs that I’ve read. In this volume he relates the early years of his marriage and efforts to establish his small family on a farmstead in Northern Wisconsin – growing much of their own food by raising chickens and pigs, and planting a good-size vegetable garden.

Perry is a humorist and a philosopher. His memoirs aren’t particularly linear, though they are revealed in a fair approximation of chronological order. He goes off on tangents, ruminating about the joys and difficulties of the rural life he’s chosen. He can be hilariously funny, especially when poking fun at himself and his efforts to provide for his family as a farmer. He doesn’t sugarcoat the life of a farmer, but he elevates it, as when he relates his daughter’s sheer joy at holding that first, still-warm, brown egg from their own chickens, or recalling a father and son stopping to enjoy the stars on their way back to the house from the barn.

His descriptions on the growth and development of his children are priceless. Who can possibly out-think a six-year-old determined to get a horse? Or reason with a teething infant? Or answer those BIG questions that would stump any genius?

Just as with his other works, I find myself laughing out loud, and also crying in empathy. I hope he keeps writing for a long time. (His daughters may think otherwise, but I am really looking forward to hearing about his years as the father of teenage girls…)
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
There's nothing completely mind-blowing or deeply insightful about this, but it's just really, really pleasant. It's a book about the rural midwest that reads like the rural midwest: understated, mindful, kind, quiet, and full of good people. ( )
  CherieDooryard | Jan 20, 2015 |
This is one of my all time favorite books. Michael Perry is a genius disguised as a Central Wisconsin everyman. I only wish that I could express myself as clearly and openly as he does. I challenge anyone to read this and not laugh, cry, or shout "YES! He's right!". Thank you, Mr. Perry, for reminding me of home. ( )
  1Randal | Aug 25, 2014 |
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In over his head with two pigs, a dozen chickens, and a baby due any minute, Perry gives us a humorous, heartfelt memoir of a new life in the country.

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From the acclaimed author of Population: 485 and Truck: A Love Story comes a humorous, heartfelt memoir of a new life in the country. Living in a ramshackle Wisconsin farmhouse—faced with thirty-seven acres of fallen fences and overgrown fields, and informed by his pregnant wife that she intends to deliver their baby at home—Michael Perry plumbs his unorthodox childhood for clues to how to proceed as a farmer, a husband, and a father. Whether he's remembering his younger days—when his city-bred parents took in sixty or so foster children while running a sheep and dairy farm—or describing what it's like to be bitten in the butt while wrestling a pig, Perry flourishes in his trademark humor. But he also writes from the quieter corners of his heart, chronicling experiences as joyful as the birth of his child and as devastating as the death of a dear friend.
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