Coop by Michael Perry with the expectation that it would be about farming. It was about farming but so much more. I've been on a farming kick lately and the premise appealed to me so I agreed to be part of the TLC Book Tour.
Michael Perry is a writer with a new wife, daughter and farm. He just bought 37 acres and an old farmhouse in an effort to make his family self-sufficient. Luckily, he has experience in farming since he grew up on his parents' farm nearby. First, he needs to buy some chickens and some pigs, fix the fence, build a coop and help his wife birth their baby. Oh yeah, she wants a water birth, at home. Yep, just the quiet country life for these folks.
The first thing I took away from Coop was owning a farm is a lo-hot-t of work. I was exhausted reading it. Life in the slow lane isn't easy. Their life seems both so extraordinary and ordinary. It wasn't long ago farm living wasn't considered a novelty. One of my grandfathers was a wheat farmer. It's rather poetic that he died at age 73 in a wheat field. My other grandfather was a miner but also had a cow, chickens and pigs. My mom still tells stories about milking the cow and the mean rooster.
Perry had an unusual childhood. His parents belonged to an obscure religious sect, so obscure it doesn't have a name. He grew up without a TV and even the radio was looked down upon. His parents adopted or fostered dozens of children over the years, some with terminal illnesses. They were super poor. The kind of people featured on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition- selfless and giving. But I suspect they would tell Ty Pennington to keep on trucking. Perry doesn't complain about this, in fact, he is grateful for the childhood he had. He recounts the excitement he felt when the hand-me-down box came or the one day a week they got 'real' cereal for breakfast. You might think, "Is he for real?" but I assure you, he meant everything he said.
Perry weaves the stories from his childhood with his more recent experiences. His struggles to find a balance between his ambitions as a farmer and his desire to be a better husband and father. At first, I found his style of writing meandering and wondered where he was going but got used to it quickly and enjoyed it. It was like I was following him around the farm listening to him think out loud. He has a beautiful way of turning a phrase.
Life on a farm isn't all daisies and fuzzy bunnies (unless you feed them to the pigs), it's dirty and rough. Perry doesn't shy away from the uglier side of farming like slaughtering the chickens and pigs. It's reality and it's a little graphic. It didn't bother me any but it might others. I could have done without the tractor talk. I'm the least mechanically inclined person ever so it was right over my head.
It isn't all tractors and chickens. Perry talks about life and his family. As the book progresses, he faces heart wrenching tradegies that he shares with the reader. These are very personal stories. He really puts himself out there.
I really can't describe how much I enjoyed Coop. It was a slow read for me but I think that's the spirit of the book. Slow down and take it one page at a time.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review copy.
Michael Perry will be on Blog Talk Radio with Book Club Girl on Monday, June 7th at 7pm EST.