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Truck: A Love Storyby Michael Perry
Synopses & Reviews
The author of Population: 485 returns, delivering a truckload of humor, heart, and...gardening tips? Think Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, complete with stock cars, sexy vegetables, and a laugh track.
"All I wanted to do was fix my old pickup truck," says Michael Perry. "That, and plant my garden. Then I met this woman." Truck: A Love Story recounts a year in which Perry struggles to grow his own food (Seed catalogs are responsible for more unfulfilled fantasies than Enron and Penthouse combined), live peaceably with his neighbors (one test-fires his black powder rifle in the alley; another's best Sunday shirt reads 100 PERCENT WHUP-ASS), and sort out his love life. But along the way, he sets his hair on fire, is attacked by wild turkeys, takes a date to the fire department chicken dinner, and proposes marriage to a woman in New Orleans. As with Population: 485, much of the spirit of Truck: A Love Story may be found in the characters Perry meets: a one-eyed land surveyor, a paraplegic biker who rigs a sidecar so that his quadriplegic pal can ride along, a bartender who refuses to sell light beer, an enchanting woman who never existed, and half the staff of National Public Radio.
By turns hilarious and heartfelt, a tale that begins on a pile of sheep manure, detours to the Whitney Museum of American Art, and returns to the deer-hunting swamps of northern Wisconsin, Truck: A Love Story becomes a testament to the surprising and unintended consequences of love.
"A part-time emergency medical technician, Perry delivers the latest account of his somewhat idiosyncratic life and times in a small Wisconsin town ('I am happy to live in a place where I can chuck a washing machine out my back door and no one judges my behavior unusual'). Here, he focuses on two main events over the course of a year: fixing up a 1951 International Harvester pickup truck and developing a romance with a local woman after a long stretch of failed relationships. Never cloying, Perry is a wry observer of how success in both areas 'is the result of a modest accumulation of lucky breaks and the kindness of others,' and displays the storytelling and observational skills that made his first book, Population: 485, such a success. One of his most memorable descriptions is of an ex-patient, Ozzie, a motorcycle-loving ventilator-dependent quadriplegic, who gets to ride again after his wheelchair is hooked up to the cycle of his paraplegic friend Pat — 'You haven't really explored the outer limits of health care until you've watched a Hell's Angel suction a tracheotomy tube.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, here's Christmas, coming around again; time for you to start making your gift lists. And, as always, after you've broken your recipients into the usual categories (young couples, the grandparents, teen-age girls, little kids), there remains that elusive, oddly seductive subgroup: 'problematic guys.' They may be winsome and shy as deer. They... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) live in an apartment you've never seen. They drink draft beer at a local bar, with a couple of buddies, equally tweaked. They wear Pendleton shirts, sometimes too long between washings. They stay out in the garage, fiddling for hours with the car. You can see their legs sticking out. Everybody in the Western world has about five of these guys on his or her list, and 'Truck: A Love Story' is the perfect present for them: (a) it's under $30; (b) it validates their whole way of life; and (c) you can give it to high-end guys, too, because Michael Perry has written about his rural, sort-of-social-antisocial life in Esquire, Utne Reader and an earlier, well-received memoir titled 'Population: 485.' 'Truck' follows a classic, year-in-the-life construction. As it opens in January 2003, Perry is living what he presumes to be a permanent, fairly pleasant bachelor existence in the very small town of New Auburn, Wis. He takes his pleasure in the simple things: 'This morning for coffee I ground four scoops of Farmer to Farmer Guatemalan Medium and when I pulled the grinder cap and sniffed, it was all I could do not to flop right over and shake my leg like a dog.' He's looking at the new year with a couple of projects in mind. He's intent on planting an improved garden. As a descendant — in his heart and mind, at least — of Henry David Thoreau, Perry aspires to live a frugal existence with a direct connection to the land. (He grew up on a farm with chickens and so on, and his vague dreams of the future nearly always include chickens.) His other project will be more difficult, but it's been burning along in his mind for months. There's a 1951 International Harvester L-120 pickup truck that's been sitting dead in his driveway for a long time. He bought it when he was still in nursing school, for $150. He loves that truck and longs to get it running again. These are modest, peaceful aims. At age 38 he's given up on ever finding a girlfriend and hasn't had a date for a year. Now, he just wants to hang with his brother-in-law, Mark, and fix up that truck. He needs to keep in touch with his recently widowed and remarried brother Jed and also his truly eccentric brother John, who lives in a self-built shack out in the woods with no indoor plumbing. Perry himself is no recluse; he's a member of the volunteer fire department, but he prefers to keep a low profile, do some writing (which he downplays), go to the stock car races, just hang. He and his brothers manage to get the truck over to Mark's wonderfully outfitted workshop-garage. They loop down a couple of 'trouble lights,' and the hours of puttering commence. Over a long period, the truck will be taken apart and put back together again. These passages are wonderfully evocative. Just the words 'trouble lights' may carry a Proustian jolt for some guys, or for women who remember dads out in the garage, fiddling with something, a car or a piece of furniture, the trouble light swinging down low so you can get a better look. Then, just as Perry seems to have come to terms with his ascetic existence, he meets a woman, Anneliese, a single mom with a beautiful 3-year-old daughter. The way he meets her is a writer's dream, a shy man's dream. After he gives a reading at a local library, she e-mails him and asks him out for coffee. It turns out she's a friend of one of his relatives. She's his kind of person; he's her kind of person. A courtship begins. Meanwhile, the volunteer fire department holds its annual dinner, and he participates. He goes to those stock car races. He suffers the agony of a lonely man doing his own grocery shopping. Perry also has some of the generic troubles of the middle-aged man: a bout with gout, a troublesome spot in his vision that's probably never going to go away. He's also got a very profound — again, played down — choice: Should he stay with the staid, unthreatening comforts of bachelorhood, or should he cast his lot with the essentially messy, risky enterprise of marriage? It's a question for guys pushing 40 (or 30 or 50) everywhere. Can the old rusty truck be made to run again? Can the heart jump-start itself and shift into love? Buy a stack of these books for the elusive guys in your life and see what happens." Reviewed by Carolyn See, who may be reached at www.carolynsee.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Perry writes about fixing his truck as if he was resurrecting it, but in fact, he may more accurately be said to have been resurrecting himself." Booklist
"A reminder...to celebrate small-town life and to treasure human relationships." Kirkus Reviews
"Perry successfully weaves three main stories—restoring a 1950s International Harvester truck with his brother, discovering romance after several failed relationships, and learning the unpredictable art of gardening—into one coherent whole. Humorous without being cynical and heartfelt without being overly sentimental, Perry is my kind of memoir writer." Kathleen Garfin, Enchanted Forest Books, Forest City, IA
As with his popular Population: 485, Perry delivers a truckload of humor, heart, and gardening tips in this chronicle of a year in which he grows his own food, seeks to live peaceably with his neighbors, and sort out his love life.
About the Author
Michael Perry is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling memoir Population: 485 in addition to the essay collection Off Main Street. He lives in Wisconsin.
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