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Citizen Reader on hiatus.

My literary crush on Michael Perry continues.

If you'll remember, last week I was struggling because I had work to do, but all I WANTED to do was read Michael Perry's memoir Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting.

You should know that eventually I gave up the fight, finished the memoir, and then had to work the rest of the weekend to try and make up for it.

It was totally worth it.

Coop Perry is also the author of the fantastic memoirs Population: 485 (about his return to and life in the small Wisconsin town of New Auburn, where he also worked as an EMT) and Truck: A Love Story (in which he simultaneously restored an old truck and fell in love with a woman named Anneliese). In this memoir, he continues telling the story of his life by describing his first years of married life, including he and his wife's move to a small farm (where Perry is excited to raise some chickens and two pigs), their homeschooling of his "given" daughter Amy, and the arrival of their baby daughter. Along the way he also shares memories of his parents and his childhood, including his family's raising of numerous foster children, and of making a good life with not much money but a ton of love.

If you haven't figured it out yet, you should know that I have absolutely no objectivity where Michael Perry is concerned, so this is less a review than a gushing lovefest. In addition to enjoying Perry's voice, which is always just the right combination of earthy and erudite, earnest and shaply funny, I had the added plus of really being able to picture his parents. Not just because he describes them so well, but because my parents, after reading Population: 485, actually went to his hometown and drove around until they found his parents. Eventually his parents, because they are quite literally the nicest people on earth, stopped by my parents' farm and I got to meet them there. So I was just tickled to learn more about them:

"When Mom was in her first year of nursing school and Dad was a freshman at the local state college, he asked her to homecoming.

In Mom's words, the date was 'a great fiasco.' She agreed to go to the football game, but as she was already a member of the Truth,* which had stricutres forbidding dancing, she refused to attend the dance. Furthermore, Dad had been drinking the night before, and was certain Mom could tell. She says he couldn't wait to get her home and off his hands. At the door, she invited him in for cocoa. I delight in the image of my dad blowing on that hot chocolate, his toes curled tight as a pipe clamp, sweating out the last of the previous evening's booze and just--I have to assume--dying for a real drink. He drank the cocoa and bolted.

One year later, they went on a second date. 'This is getting serious,' said Grandma Peterson. And despite the slow start, it was." (pp. 80-81.)

So you'll not find much criticism of this book here. I loved it from start to finish. As pointed out in earlier comments, though, I should say it's not a perfect book. Sometimes the skipping back and forth between memories and present day is a little jarring, and overall, I don't think it's quite the structured, beautifully formed little jewel that his first memoir was--but that would be a lot to ask. If you haven't read any Perry yet, do start with Population: 485 and make your way up to this one. But make sure and leave plenty of reading time if you do--to start reading Michael Perry is to love him, and you won't want to stop.

*The Truth is the religious sect in which Perry was raised, and he also spends some time talking about his experiences with the church.