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Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,205 ratings  ·  211 reviews
“Somewhere between Garrison Keillor’s idyllic-sweet Lake Wobegon and the narrow-mindedness of Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street lies the reality of small-town life. This is where Michael Perry lives.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press

“Perry can take comfort in the power of his writing, his ability to pull readers from all corners onto his Wisconsin spread, and make them feel right at home
Hardcover, 310 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by Harper
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  1,205 ratings  ·  211 reviews

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Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I loved Perry's Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time and was ambivalent about Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting through failings all my own.

This book, as much memoir as biography, was a shimmering jewel of keen observation and reverence for humanity. There were numerous passages that brought tears to my eyes. Tom reminded me of the few codgers who walked through my youth fixing fences, hauling rocks out of fields, and generally making impossible things from the
Lisa Kearns
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I knew even before I opened this book that I would love it. The cover photo of Tom Hartwig sitting on the running board of his Model A car drew me in as stories of older times and older people always do.

Michael Perry has written a beautiful, loving tribute to an 80 year old neighbor and his wife, and to their fading way of life. Tom brews his own wine, and makes his own machinery by patching together parts of others. He farmed for 60 years - corn and milk cows and sheep. His farm is the typical
Oct 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Visiting Tom

By Michael Perry, our local New York Times Best Selling Author

If it weren’t for the fact that local author Michael Perry (and singer, humorist, part-time pig farmer, volunteer fire-fighter and father of two) wasn’t such a gifted storyteller, I’m not so sure I would have chosen this as my next read. I’ve never been drawn to someone else’s view of someone else’s life since it usually comes across with a certain measure of judgment or pr
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is my first experience with Michael Perry, and I'm sure glad I picked up the book. I scored this galley from a friend at the bookstore in which I used to work. He saw the reference to Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work and predicted I'd love it.

I'm going to start recommending Perry to my non-reader manly man high school students, as well as fathers, mothers, people who like to work with their hands, and anyone who likes rural life (in theory or practice). In short, t
Virginia Campbell
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As much as I enjoy reading fiction, every once in a while a true story will come along that is better than fiction. Such is the case with "Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace" from author Michael Perry. "Visiting Tom" is a real slice of American Pie, a tart cherry pie topped with farm-fresh sweet whipped cream. Tom Hartwig and his wife of six decades, Arlene, still live in the Wisconsin farmhouse in which Tom was born. In their eighties, they are as full of spirit as ...more
Oct 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Tom reminded me of so many of my neighbors growing up. Just a normal guy who may have some eccentricities (in Tom's case, his love of cannons), but if you listen and pay attention, you can learn so much about life. How to live it, how to appreciate it, sort through things to realize what is really important. What I love about Michael Perry's writing is that he can take an ordinary thing and make it into something absolutely beautiful, which brings out the true beauty of the situation, usually so ...more
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I went into this book thinking it would be like a "Tuesdays with Morrie" (which I haven't read, but get the impression it's a moral tale--a heavy-handed "what we should be learning from our elders"). To my pleasant surprise, "Visiting Tom" was nothing like that. I should have known to expect better from Michael Perry. He's not one to rest on cliches or easy writing.

Perry simply visits Tom, his neighbor. You get the sense he wants to glean platitudes and wisdom from Tom, but like all salt-of-the
Mark Buehl
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I read a lot of books, fiction and non-fiction. Being from Wisconsin, I have to admit to be partial to Michael Perry. I have seen him live and read most of his books. He is a joy to see live and to read his books. I have to say, Visiting Tom is not only one of his best books, if not his best book. It is also one of the best books I have read not only lately, but over the past few years.

The story, the characters and the writing are all very intriguing, interesting, and just a plain joy. If you do
M. Sarki
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it

Many of these enticing and wonderfully adept stories may not be as interesting as some presented in earlier books, but plainly speaking Michael Perry in Visiting Tom has achieved his greatest and most developed work so far among what has previously been published to great acclaim. Still a bit over-sentimental for my tastes, Perry again proves his deftness on the page. Weaving true life events into a cogent semblance of purity and goodness unrivaled by anyo
May 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Michael Perry has become my favorite modern author, not because I agree with everything he says, but because he has such a gift for transforming the prosaic into the poetic. This book beautifully and humorously captures the collision of older agrarian ways of life with the high-tech, high-speed, and sometimes high-handed forces of modernity. Take a story about an aging farmer who watches an interstate highway bisect his land and obliterate the turtle ponds of his youth, and you'd expect a real n ...more
Jan 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People interested in rural life
Another "back to the farm" book. These seem to be very popular lately. Maybe because of the Recession.

Anyway, this isn't so much a story as it is listening to a bunch of old farmers chew the fat. This story, that story, how about that one time... Blah, blah, blah. What saves it from being boring is Michael Perry's beautiful prose and the one constant storyline in the book: Michael fighting the Highway Commissioner to get his driveway widened (it was wide, but the Commissioner unilaterally decid
Nov 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Interesting words describing everyday rural struggles and successes. When I need some Wisconsin culture, I reach for Perry.
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
A nice enough story, but oh, so slow moving. I wasn't sure where we were going or if we would ever get there.
Robert Strandquist
Jan 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
82 year old Tom Hartwig serves as a prism through which young, 46 year old Michael Perry sees his future self. The full spectrum of Michael’s view of old Tom is vividly presented in the last 50 pages of this biographical memoir. Throughout the early chapters we see Tom and his wife Arlene as stoic and lovable icons of honest, independent, hard-working farmers. Tom’s endless yarn-spinning shines as it also does in Michael’s life as a prolific author and entertainer. Both men face and cope with th ...more
Dana Stabenow
Michael Perry writes about where the rubber of everyday life meets the road in rural Wisconsin. This book is hung on a framework of visits to a neighbor down the road, a guy named Tom, married to Arlene, coming up on his sixtieth wedding anniversary. A while back the government pushed an interstate through the front yard of their once peaceful farm and now their life is lived to the sound of eight million vehicles driving by every year. Tom builds things, parts for vehicles and tractors, and can ...more
May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dana Rahe
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My favorite author!
Leslie Fitzwater
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Visiting Tom is like sitting down at the kitchen table with a friend who tells the best stories. Listen to the audio book, which is read by the author. Perry is a superb reader. I loved this book!
Bob Mustin
Dec 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Visiting Tom: A Man, A Highway, andThe Road To Roughneck Grace, by Michael Perry

There’s a lot to say about this book, and I don’t think I can say it all in a blog post. First, the serendipity: some 6-7 years ago, when I was doing a lot of driving for various reasons, the missus gave me a book on CDs - Population: 485, by this same Michael Perry. Some weeks ago, a musician friend offered to introduce me to Perry (he didn’t follow up), and out of curiosity I bought this book. Only as I turned the
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
I first encountered Michael Perry’s work sometime in 2009 when I picked up Population: 485 from a “new paperbacks” table at Barnes and Nobel (this was before most of my reading shifted to Kindle). For some reason I didn’t read it until February, 2010, but I loved it to bits. He’s got that truly American writing style that is shared by Stephen King (except Perry’s books never include killer clowns or radioactive spaceships, though one did involve a pig being butchered), and Garrisson Keillor. You ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading "Visiting Tom" by Michael Perry. It brought back many memories of my childhood and visiting my aunts and uncles. This book is set in rural Wisconsin but it turns out that it is not different from where my relatives lived in Indiana. With his broad knowledge of mechanics, gardening and history, he reminds me of my favorite aunt! It is difficult in this review to sift out my own memories because there are so many similarities.

Tom Hartwig, an octogenarian, now widowed and a
Jill Tiefel
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
Love Michael Perry's writing style. He has the ability to combine descriptive prose, musings, and humor. The result is an eminently relatable and readable book about everyday life and ordinary people. I appreciate reading about places I know, so that adds another layer to my enjoyment.
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Visiting Tom, Michael Perry's latest memoir, gives readers another view into Perry's rural farm life in Wisconsin. Perry was a bachelor into his forties, when he met and married Anneliese. Anneliese had a daughter and they soon had another daughter together. They have lived on a farm for the past five years surrounded by chickens and pigs, performing the familiar chores that have sustained farmers and their families for generations. Perry was trained as a nurse, and still goes on EMT runs and wo ...more
Sep 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I live in Wisconsin and so does Michael Perry. So what's not to like? I read most of his books and heard his presentations a few times. This winter he will be here performing at the Grand Opera House and, of course, I already have tickets to that. In this book he writes about his 80-year-old neighbor Tom who, along with his wife and farm, have weathered the construction of an Interstate through his farm. He's mellowed out now and reminisces about his years there. Also, Tom is a machinist who bui ...more
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, non-fiction
Michael Perry is by far my favorite non-fiction author. He completely knocked it out of the park with 'Visiting Tom'.

Mr. Perry made me laugh until I cried and at times, just plain made me cry. The story of Tom and Arlene Hartwig reminded me some of my own parents. A heart-warming story of two old timers who have been together for a very long time. A man and his wife who banter back and forth and who would miss each other dearly if the other were not there.

Woven throughout the story is much of P
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I find I am always a bit skeptical when I start reading a book and realize it is about someone else but for the second time in a row (Saved was also like this), I have been pleasantly surprised and also impressed with the authors' ability to capture his subject and to illustrate his strengths while including enough of his weaknesses - or at least inconsistencies - to make him human. It is hard to say what this book is about. There are pieces of respect for the past, honoring ones elders, and con ...more
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoy Mike's humor - proving once again that we are all better off if we can learn to not take everything in life too seriously (almost always easier if it is not yourself). Mike is very gited in his ability to weave together many small, often unrelated events into a larger picture. Mike's use of language is such that you can easily visualize the setting as if you were actually there and watching from the sidelines. Some of my favorite are: 1) him taking his youngest daughter to the swi ...more
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Michael Perry is an apologist for those of us that have taken up modern living while lamenting the loss of "the good life" in rural existence. There's no doubt about it - many of us would much rather be driving a tractor, tending chickens, or welding a sawmill together. But making a living that way really doesn't happen any more in this country. Fortunately, new ways of making a living have sprung up that allow some of us to do these things as an avocation. Michael Perry does it by being an exce ...more
Dennis Deery
Sep 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've been a huge Michael Perry fan since his first hit, Population 485. He's back once again with stories of small town life. In this book (his best since Pop 485), he writes about his neighbor Tom. This book really struck a chord with me because Tom reminds me of my dad, and many of the other characters I met when I was a kid hanging out with my dad. The personality of the quiet, brilliant innovator working in his garage and inventing the tools and things he needs is one I'm very familiar with, ...more
Luke Henning
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up on a whim at a local used book store. I'd never read Michael Perry and only knew he was in "rural Wisconsin" which in my mind is most of the state north of Madison... For sure north of The Dells. Imagine my surprise the first paragraph in when I realized I knew Tom. Not well mind you but I've been to his place and fired one of his cannons. Borrowed it with my dad in fact to help a local high school do Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture complete with artillery! I couldn't have been ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Wrong Subtitle 5 20 Jul 08, 2013 11:41AM  

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Michael Perry is a New York Times bestselling author, humorist and radio show host from New Auburn, Wisconsin.

Perry’s bestselling memoirs include Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, Coop, and Visiting Tom. Raised on a small Midwestern dairy farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a ranch in Wyoming, then wound up writing by happy accident. He lives with his wife and two da

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“Sleeping in the same bed with someone to whom you can admit your failings is a lasting comfort indeed. This is not about "mea culpa" as surrender, it is about "mea culpa" as mortar in binding together the uneven bricks of a human foundation.” 4 likes
“I stand beside Tom's barn and ponder the benign heedlessness of the people in the speeding cars, and here I am in the speeding car. In my heart I wish the bypass had never been built; in my car I never take the old way.” 1 likes
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