Michael Perry’s first adult novel takes place in the small rural town of Swivel, Wisconsin. Forty-something Harley is a bachelor living alone on the remaining 15 acres of his parents’ farm; the rest having been lost mostly to development. He works at a factory, keeps a few beefers, volunteers at the fire department and has been known to attend a poetry reading every now and then.
All is fairly quiet for Harley as he moves toward his secret of happiness: “low overhead.” Then, on Christmas Eve, he opens his barn door to find a calf has been born in the manger, and it has the image of Jesus on its side. “Well, that’s trouble,” he thinks.
Harley tries to hide the calf, but it gets out. The mail carrier sees the calf, snaps some photos, and the Jesus Cow goes viral. Believers begin pouring onto Harley’s property, and he’s forced into immediate business. He reluctantly accepts the assistance of West Coast agent Sloan Knight whose talent agency deftly handles the intense crowds. Harley sees his bank account start to inflate and realizes he could take a friend’s suggestion and “undevelop,” restoring his parent’s farm. He remains conflicted, “unsettled” by the people “who looked furtively faithful” and came in hope or desperation because he doesn’t believe he is offering them anything.
Perry’s hilarious novel offers a comic but respectful look at faith and fellowship. He writes affectionately of life in a rural community and showcases his personal connection to the people of such a place. CV
Fay Jones was born with a love of literature, which was finely shored up throughout her early years by her parents and a beloved children’s librarian who wore the thickest glasses ever manufactured. Ms. Jones once won a coupon for a free ice cream cone after her suggestion for a name for the local Reading Is Fundamental mascot was selected.