Last night, the group met to discuss Visiting Tom: A Man, A Highway and the Road to Roughneck Grace by Michael Perry. Our group had previously discussed one of the author’s other books, Coop, back in July of 2010, so some readers were already familiar with the author. We had an interesting, and varied discussion — I’ll try to hit some of the highlights of what readers had to say here:
- Two readers started by mentioning that they just couldn’t get too far into the book. For one of them, it was a timing issue, but for the other, he just felt that while it was nicely written, he just couldn’t get into it. Another reader said it felt like at times, it was a lot of “2 guys chewing the fat,” but that she liked the storyline about the author fighting the road commission.
- Another reader, though, said that she did enjoy it, and liked the framework of the photo sessions in the book. She mentioned how this book seems sentimental, and another reader agreed, saying that he felt the author waxes sentimental here, but he’s self-conscious about it. He also said that he felt the book isn’t really nostalgic, although it provides some context for things in the present.
- We had some general discussion about the author’s writing style. Some readers, who have read his other books, enjoy his conversational style very much. A number of people mentioned how much they enjoyed how he writes about his family, in particular. One reader said she found his phrasing to be delightful (and she also mentioned that she wished Tom lived next door to her to help with her heat….). Other readers also mentioned that they like his writing style, with one person mentioning how thoughtful he found some things. He gave the example of “At the end of the day, the heart seeks familiar territory,” as something that struck him.
- One reader found the book especially resonated with her, since she has lived in that area of Wisconsin and has friends who live there currently. In fact, one of her friends is right now experiencing frustration with the road commission over the road they live on, which is off a highway. So, for her, it was really fun to read about the author’s experiences with his own road. And on the subject of the author’s road situation, one reader said that reading about his snowplowing made him feel less sorry for himself with our recent weather.
- One person mentioned that he liked that this book was consistent with the author’s other books, and was especially pleased that at the end, Tom and Arlene are still with us (and that it’s not an awful, sad ending). He also said that this book made him think about how people communicate with each other. For example, a long time ago, people would visit each other more, and now, this is rare for a lot of people, especially if it’s at night. We had some general discussion about this, and how people seem to relate to each other differently in a small town. We also had some general discussion about a comment from a reader, who said that he felt that after reading this book, he felt he knew more about human beings. He also said that reading about Tom’s skills and inventiveness made him think of the current “maker” movement.
- Another reader, who has also read the author’s books, said that she particularly enjoyed this one. She likes the author’s writing style, and noted a few different phrases and parts that struck her. She mentioned that some of her family came from Peshtigo, Wisconsin (which isn’t as far north as where the author lives) and had farms, and it made her think about some of the stories from her family. She also said that she has given some of the author’s books to family members, who also enjoy them (so she is now thinking of creating sets of his books to give to some of them).
Michael Perry was gracious enough to answer a few questions that I sent him before our discussion, which I shared with the group (thank you!!). I don’t think he’d mind if I shared one of them here, and considering the winter weather we’ve had lately, I think this one might resonate:
How’s that “road improvement” this winter? This has been on my mind, since we recently had pretty awful weather recently here in the Chicago area that made for some fun driving.
Um. If I said what I really think of the improvements, I would have to use language not allowed in polite book groups. It’s a mess. That said, it’s a small mess that we can overcome and doesn’t stack up even for a split second against the real troubles in this world. But yah. The word “improvement” has really been abused here.
We always welcome more discussion, so please feel free to leave a comment or two!