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The Jesus Cow

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New York Times bestselling humorist Michael Perry makes his fiction debut with this hilarious and big-hearted tale, a comic yet sincere exploration of faith and the foibles of modern life that blends the barbed charm of Garrison Keillor, the irreverent humor of Christopher Moore, and the audacious insight of Chuck Klosterman

Life is suddenly full of drama for low-key Harley Jackson: A woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor’s heart, a Hummer-driving predatory developer is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm, and inside his barn is a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. His best friend, Billy, a giant of a man who shares his trailer house with a herd of cats and tries to pass off country music lyrics as philosophy, urges him to avoid the woman, fight the developer, and get rich off the calf. But Harley takes the opposite tack, hoping to avoid what his devout, dearly departed mother would have called “a scene.”

Then the secret gets out—right through the barn door, and Harley’s “miracle” goes viral. Within hours pilgrims, grifters, and the media have descended on his quiet patch of Swivel, Wisconsin, looking for a glimpse (and a percentage) of the calf. Does Harley hide the famous, possibly holy calf and risk a riot, or give the people what they want—and raise enough money to keep his land—and, just possibly, win the woman and her big red pickup truck?

Harley goes all in, cutting a deal with a major Hollywood agent that transforms his little farm into an international spiritual theme park—think Lourdes, only with cheese curds and t-shirts. Soon, Harley has lots of money . . . and more trouble than he ever dreamed.

283 pages, Hardcover

First published May 19, 2015

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About the author

Michael Perry

27 books548 followers
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 daughters in rural Wisconsin, where he serves on the local volunteer fire and rescue service and is an amateur pig farmer. He hosts the nationally-syndicated “Tent Show Radio,” performs widely as a humorist, and tours with his band the Long Beds (currently recording their third album for Amble Down Records). He has recorded three live humor albums including Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow and The Clodhopper Monologues, is currently finishing his first young adult novel, and can be found online at www.sneezingcow.com.

Perry’s essays and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Backpacker, Outside, Runner’s World, Salon.com, and he is a contributing editor to Men’s Health magazine. His writing assignments have taken him to the top of Mt. Rainier with Iraq War veterans, into the same room as the frozen head of Ted Williams, across the United States with truckers and country music singers, and—once—buck naked into a spray-tan booth.

In the essay collection Off Main Street, Perry wrote of how his nursing education prepared him to become a writer by training him in human assessment, and he credits singer-songwriters like Steve Earle and John Prine with helping him understand that art need not wear fancy clothes. Above all, he gives credit to his parents, of whom he says, “Anything good is because of them, everything else is simply not their fault.” His mother taught him to read and filled the house with books; his father taught him how to clean calf pens, of which Perry has written, “a childhood spent slinging manure – the metaphorical basis for a writing career.”

Perry has recently been involved in several musical collaborations, including as lyricist for Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Geoffrey Keezer, and as co-writer (with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon) of the liner notes for the John Prine tribute album “Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows.” Perry also collaborated with Vernon and Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne on a project that began when Vernon approached Perry and said, “Say, you’re a nurse…” The results were bloody, but then that was the point.

Of all his experiences, Perry says the single most meaningful thing he has ever done is serving 12 years beside his neighbors on the New Auburn Area Fire Department.

Mike says:

If I had to sum up my ‘career’ in one word, it would be gratitude. I get to write and tell stories all around the country, then come home to be with my family and hang out at the local feed mill complaining about the price of feeder hogs. It’s a good life and I’m lucky to have it.

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5 stars
361 (16%)
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852 (38%)
3 stars
750 (34%)
2 stars
182 (8%)
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43 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 406 reviews
Profile Image for Snotchocheez.
595 reviews322 followers
December 12, 2015
1.5 stars

Pretty much unfunny comedy about a Wisconsin farmer who discovers a calf with a spot that resembles Jesus. Sounded like it would be a laff riot (like a Hiaasen novel) but the one-note hilarity (aimed at overweight, clueless middle-Americans) fell utterly flat for me. It's sad when the reviled Kathleen Hale's No One Else Can Have You, also set in Wisconsin, (and not billed as a comedy) is about ten times as funny as this lackluster eco-humor.
Profile Image for Cheryl .
9,045 reviews391 followers
January 5, 2020
It's unfortunate the blurb doesn't make it clear that this is uniquely Perry. But since not nearly enough ppl know his work, well, I guess the adjectives and comparisons to other, more widely known authors, are somewhat helpful.

I'm such a big fan that I don't know what to say to convince you that this is worth reading. And I can't be objective about its flaws, if indeed it has any. I will say that *I* found the beginning a bit too earnest or something, a bit too much like Perry's essays... but that's ok, because that's what he does best. And by the end I was in love with the whole book anyway.

I think it'd make a great movie. All the eccentric & dramatic characters could be portrayed by good actors with minimal backstory or narrative needed. I'd cut Carolyn's role, though... to me it seemed a bit spliced in, not to mention implausible even for film.

I will continue to read everything I can by the man, even if I have to buy it, but I'm glad one of my local libraries bought a copy of this so I can reread it, and add to their circulation numbers for his name.

Onward to Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy and backward to Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg.
Profile Image for Lynne.
677 reviews
June 21, 2015
Started out as a pleasurable and funny romp...ended as a soliloquy on life.

It was fun to try to guess some of the actual names and places that were a part of this Wisconsin story...but I never figured out "Swivel"...

My favorite quote from the book:

"...you attempt to render existence in terms of perfection," [he said]. "Life is a rough approximation of things hoped for. You need to revel in the misfires. In the scars and dings. You need to develop a taste for regret. It's the malt vinegar of emotions--drink it straight from the bottle and it'll eat yer guts. Add a sprinkle here and there and it puts a living edge on things."

From "The Jesus Cow" by Michael Perry, p. 245

Totally delightful!
Profile Image for Stephen.
443 reviews49 followers
February 6, 2016
The Jesus Cow is a backwoods Shakespearean tragedy. On Christmas eve night, Harley Jackson's cow delivers a calf with the face of Jesus Christ birth marked on its side. When word leaks out, his world is turned upside down. The faithful arrive seeking a miracle. Talent Management International swoops in to merchandise the event. Harley quickly finds that the calf he thought he owned now owns him. At times laugh out loud funny, at other times thought provoking, I found the Jesus Cow to be a cozy, enjoyable read. Just right for curling up in a chair on a cold day, with the sun shining in and a cup of hot tea nearby. On my buy it, borrow it, skip scale: A solid borrow, though I bought it as I do all of Perry's books.
Profile Image for Diane.
90 reviews17 followers
June 1, 2015
I loved this book! Set in my home state of Wisconsin, this was not only a humorous story and very entertaining but also brought up some difficult issues surrounding the environment and the state of small towns and farming in Wisconsin. It points out the depth to which people will do go to find solace in religious experience; apparently- any religious experience! Just a very enjoyable read as with Michael Perry's other books.
1,555 reviews82 followers
January 22, 2017
What a fun read! Perry spoofs every segment of American society: the blowhard developer, the failed liberal academic, the monetized religious scams, small town fire departments and more. Perry takes down every sacred cow (every pun intended), but he does it with such gentle humor that the reader loves the characters at the same time s/he is laughing at them.
Profile Image for Cher.
800 reviews274 followers
March 26, 2016
2.5 stars - It was alright, an average book.

At times the author's writing invokes a warm, small town feel which I enjoy, but overall it was a tad too subtly cute for my tastes. The author narrated the book which was wonderful; his Wisconsin accent especially added to the story, and I enjoyed the quirky sense of humor in the novel. With the right synopsis, I would pick up another book by the author.
Favorite Quote: Is there anything sadder than the way a man walks in the wake of a woman he knows he has already lost?

First Sentences: On Christmas Eve itself, the bachelor Harley Jackson stepped into his barn and beheld there illuminated in the straw a smallish newborn bull calf upon whose flank was borne the very image of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
“Well,” said Harley, “that’s trouble.”
Profile Image for Brooke Dilling.
453 reviews1 follower
June 21, 2015
I love Michael Perry as a memoir writer. This book fell a little flat to me. "Write about what you know" they say... So Perry made his "aw-shucks", country bumpkin, son-of-religious-zealots background into a novel of sorts...

It falls a little flat. The characters feel like caricatures... And the reader can see the ending coming like a big flashing ball of light by about chapter 5.

Michael Perry is a great writer. One of my favorites. But this is not his best work.
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,733 reviews327 followers
February 9, 2017
Book on CD read by the author.

Adapted from the book jacket: Life is suddenly full of drama for Harley Jackson: A woman in a big red pickup has stolen his bachelor’s heart; a Hummer-driving developer hooked on self-improvement audiobooks is threatening to pave [over] his family farm; and inside his barn lies a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. Harley’s best friend, Billy, who tries to pass of country music lyrics as philosophy, urges him to sidestep the woman, fight the developer, and get rich off the calf. But Harley takes the opposite tack, hoping to avoid what his devout, dearly departed mother would have called “a scene.”

My Reactions
I love Michael Perry. His nonfiction musings on life in small-town Wisconsin are poignant, funny, philosophical, and relatable. Now he turns to fiction, with a tale of one man’s struggle to make sense of his life and rekindle his faith. Perry has a gift for describing people and situations; he makes the ridiculous totally believable. I am reminded of Carl Hiaasen, but with more heart.

There are a few scenarios that really stretch credulity here, but on the whole even the outlandish seems like it could actually happen: crowds of pilgrims inspired by social media, in-fighting among the residents over who gets a piece of the pie, one man’s efforts to stay above the fray, another’s desire to profit. My only real complaint is that the ending scenario was just too farfetched; it seemed that he lost his way and took the first exit. Still, I enjoyed the novel and we all need a little light entertainment now and again (not to mention a belly laugh or two).

Perry read the audio version himself. He has a great delivery. I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job.
52 reviews
April 2, 2015
I received a free advance reader's copy of this book at 2015 ALA Midwinter.

I hate saying things about books that I didn't finish, but I am halfway through this and am about to put it down out of boredom and annoyance. This is the first thing I have read by this author and I gather his other works are very enjoyable. So far, I find the character development somewhat trite - and can't entirely figure out if it is intentional social satire or if the characters are just sort of stereotypical (strident feminist academic, capitalism-loving hummer-driving businessman). The woman who seems to be introduced as the romantic interest of the shy, bumbling bachelor protagonist is the manic pixie dream girl of a rural area (and/or that always desired "cool girl" who is hot but can hang with the guys and likes food). The protagonist himself is just boring.

Add to that the fact that the only real appearance of the Jesus Cow, supposedly the point of the book, is to be born and cause Boring Protagonist to stress a lot about owning a cow with the face of Jesus on its side (so? How many cats with funny fur markings are on the internet?).

Other reviews suggest the ending is unexpected, and possibly out of character of the rest of the book, but unless it picks up I'm just not going to get there.
Profile Image for Vicki.
547 reviews36 followers
May 26, 2017
Wow! This was a strange book, but not in a bad way. The book was funny and very different.

We’ve all seen or heard about the piece of toast with the image of Jesus, right? Well, Harley Jackson’s cow, who he named Tina Turner, delivers a calf who has a birthmark that looks like Jesus. You can only imagine the uproar that causes for not only for Harley but the whole town. Swivel, Wisconsin. is overrun by the media and everyone within hearing distance of the calf and the birthmark.

The characters were a mix of…well, characters. Some are a bit strange and those were the ones I loved the most. There is a lot happening in this book, and it had a steady flow. I really liked Harley, Caroline and Billy, but also some of the people who came and went throughout the book. The ending wasn’t what I expected, but it worked.

This was my first Perry book, but I do plan to read more. It was a quick, fun read that takes place in a small town, a well written story that is very original.
Profile Image for Tommy.
267 reviews5 followers
June 6, 2015
I hesitate to rate a book at 5 stars so close to having read it. That rating might fall a star, with some thought, when the high wears off. I enjoyed the hell out of this book, though. This despite feeling an uncomfortable kinship with Harley, the main character. It made me laugh. It upset me about as much as a book has in a while, given how closely Harley's mistakes in one respect mirrored my own.
Profile Image for Becky.
1,453 reviews79 followers
May 22, 2015
When Harley Jackson's cow Tina Turner gives birth to a calf sporting a Jesus shaped birthmark, on Christmas Eve no less, he knows he's in for trouble. Harley isn't one to go looking for attention, in fact it's exactly the opposite. He loves the quiet life. But as much as he'd like to keep this holy cow under wraps, the calf is soon out of the bag. And with a local land owner harassing Harley in hopes of drawing attention away from his own failing investment, the small time cattle farmer has no choice but to take advantage of the Jesus cow's discovery. Of course this miracle quickly becomes exactly the burden Harley knew it would be!

Sorry! Sorry! I just can't help it with the cheesy puns on this one! It's appropriate, I think, considering the kind of humor featured in The Jesus Cow. It's part feel good, part slapstick, and just a hint of dark humor as well. Just a hint. Think Christopher Moore with less pessimism. I mean it is written by a man who's website is SneezingCow.com after all.

But again, Perry has that feel good thing going on too. Harley is a charming and lovable character, in spite of his shyness and his attempts to fly under the radar. We as the readers get to know him, though, warts and all. And frankly he's just a really good guy! From his clumsy attempts to hide the cow to his even clumsier attempt at a relationship, you kind of just want to hug him.

Of course he's not the only character in the book. There's Klute Sorensen, the man who's trying to get both Harley and Maggie, the longtime widow who runs the salvage and tow business, to cave to his commands. There's Billy, Harley's neighbor and best friend, who lives in a trailer full of cats and uses a sighted shotgun to try and protect Harley and the cow from the frantic faithful. There's Carolyn Sawchuck, the heavy handed academic who thinks she's going to bring culture and change to the town of Swivel. And that's just the main few. Perry populates Swivel with fabulous people, good and bad, well meaning and misguided, and pretty much all fun.

Reading The Jesus Cow is pure entertainment. It's perfect for anyone looking for a good laugh and some sarcastic wit laced with a positive outlook.
Profile Image for Michelle Only Wants to Read.
383 reviews57 followers
November 24, 2015
This book took my by surprise. Even though the religious satire and humor were present (and well executed), I found it to be insightful rather than funny. Well, it is very funny, but in a strange way.

The humor is certainly there. The scenario is so far fetched and ridiculous it's almost impossible not to laugh about it, yet there are so many possibilities that something like it would happen at any point with the power of social media, and people's general desire to fill in gaps on anything just to support their beliefs. As Billy explains to Harley, the psychological phenomenon of pareidolia. I loved Meg's take on the #JesusCow situation by stating how "sometimes we get too caught up in trying to figure out what people believe and forget to look at why they believe."
I almost wish I had a Twitter account to check if the @TheJesusCow handle actually exists.

My favorite passages were those with Harley and Billy having staff meetings. For a simple guy with a passion for country music, Billy was a wise guy and reliable friend. Klute and his audiobooks cracked me up. The rest of the crew is a combination of odd characters that add to the story. I felt the story came to an end a bit abruptly though. Overall, it was a fun and silly book to read between the really good stuff.

These two quotes made an impression on me:

"Life is a rough approximation of things hoped for. You need to revel in the misfires. In the scars and dings. You need to develop a taste for regret. It's the malt vinegar of emotions--drink it straight from the bottle and it'll eat your guts. Add a sprinkle here and there and it puts a living edge on things."

He looked over the railing again. There was the desire to fling himself over, that barely repressible urge. He quailed at the idea of his body going smack, but the image he received of his easy double gainer through the silent air was beautiful and calming. He wondered how amazed folks might be, having watched his solid movement through life thus far, to know how close to the edge he sometimes ran."

As usual, I wish Goodreads would allow .5 stars. This books deserves a 3.5 rating.
556 reviews13 followers
February 2, 2015
The Jesus Cow
First of all, let me say that I love Michael Perry's nonfiction writing. For instance, Population 485 is among my top 10 favorite books of all time, and I also greatly enjoyed Coop and Visiting Tom. Michael is a master storyteller, as he describes small town life with sympathy, honesty and humor, often poking fun at himself in the process. He also is very adept at the juxtaposition of humor with breathtaking observations on the human condition and our connection to each other.
While I was delighted to get a digital ARC of this novel, I was just a little nervous about how his storytelling ability would transfer to the fiction realm. As I started to read The Jesus Cow, I felt very much at home, in a town possibly just up the road from "Nobbern" (the New Auburn, Wisconsin of his memoir writing). The characters seemed familiar, like people I might meet at the local grocery or feed store in the rural village near where I live. The characters and small-town atmosphere reminded me of South of Superior by Ellen Airgood and The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Perry's humor was there at times, as well as his sympathy for life in both rural and small-town upper midwest America. That being said, the story was a tad farfetched for me. And to be honest, I missed Michael himself.
I hope he finds success with this book, and continues to develop his storytelling abilities. But mostly I will look forward to another memoir.
Profile Image for Karen Wright.
49 reviews1 follower
November 27, 2019
I found this book amusing and clever. I grew up on a farm and have been in the public relations field (including Crisis Communications). Therefore, I could totally relate to the humor throughout the book. The characters were quirky -- just what you'd expect in a small town, so on that level, I recognized and empathized with the folks. In fact, I found myself comparing the characters to past neighbors we had while I was growing up. There was a bit of a love story woven within -- which takes a number of crazy twists that I didn't see coming!

The ending reminds me of a high school reunion, where you can look back and say, "I wondered what would become of him/her". I'm not sure if a big city person would enjoy this as much as I did -- I'm not sure they could relate. It was a surprise ending that had me laughing and I recommended my husband read it after I was done.
Profile Image for Janelle Bailey.
531 reviews8 followers
May 28, 2020
33: The Jesus Cow by Michael Perry...read in anticipation of yesterday's Zoom session with Perry. I have read nearly everything else he's written, but this was his first work of fiction and also the first fiction of his that I've read (I have not yet read The Scavengers, more of a children's book, but will).

This was Michael Perry through and through, though, with several characters and their situations reminiscent to this reader of Perry's own realities and family members and theirs, except for the arrival of this "Jesus Cow," which I believe to be actual fiction...but sure fun fiction at that. But a semester of Creative Writing impacting favorably the main character, being on call with the local fire department, and the main character being most impacted by a new woman in town having a truck only a man might love and appropriately appreciate, well...those are all real Perry-isms.

One small criticism--and not really a problem but a noticeable quirk--with this being Michael Perry's fiction is that his characters' lives and experiences don't quite live up to their narrative vocabulary; that's Perry's vocabulary. Harley, the main character, is said to have left college with one semester to go, and though he's still attending poetry readings and getting off the farm occasionally and also works at a factory in town, there's just too little to warrant or support him speaking and thinking...just like Michael Perry. ;)

A favorite aspect was the characters' different takes on faith and their wrestling with their own throughout the book. I appreciated how varied and different their personalities and hearts...and how reflective of reality in any collection of "real" people.

This was a fun stroll through fictitious Wisconsin and an enjoyable meeting of the hearts and minds of this handful of characters. I expect that they will reappear in future works, as this is a very Lake Wobegon-like story and set-up, and these are all folks I'd spend more time with, if they have more stories to tell. I sure hope they do!

Profile Image for Magen.
776 reviews31 followers
March 31, 2020
3.5 stars, rounded up because it made me laugh and this is an author local to where I grew up. This book made me laugh, which makes it special. It also reminded of growing up in small town Wisconsin. Nearly all of it was like a warm, comforting blanket, but then, the ending happened. In the last chapter, everything happens incredibly quickly, to tie up all possible storylines, and some characters act out of character. It was frustrating and disappointing.

The audiobook was recorded in Fall Creek, Wisconsin. That makes me incredibly happy.
Profile Image for Amy.
49 reviews1 follower
January 10, 2018
I really enjoy Michael Perry's non-fiction writing. I approached this fiction work of his with some hesitancy. First of all, the title. I was a little concerned it would be irreverent, which would be a turn off for me. Secondly, I'm usually hard to please when a writer I enjoy branches out into a different genre. As I would have hoped, Perry shows respect and gratitude for Christians of deep faith, yet adheres to the doubt and distance he expresses in his memoirs. As for this foray into fiction, it is a funny, sweet tale with all the great writing, memorable characters, and the homey Wisconsin setting I've come to enjoy in Perry's non-fiction.
Profile Image for Pop Bop.
2,475 reviews99 followers
June 8, 2017
Not Just Some Rural Farce

I figured that between a Jesus cow, some stereotypical characters, and a generous load of hayseed humor this book was just going to be an occasionally amusing high end "Hee Haw". Well, forgive me for being a jaundiced snot. This is certainly a very funny book, but it is also sly, edgy, insightful, and both measured and good-hearted in its cutting satire.

You can't do this sort of book right unless you understand who and what you're working over. Although he's a masterly writer and raconteur, and he "knows the territory", I think Garrison Keillor's writing is sometimes too bitter, judgmental and full of grievance to actually enjoy. Well, take the same sort of setting and similar characters and add more forgiveness, a touch of bemusement, and a talent for pertinent snappy patter, and you have something closer to this book. Even as the story spins more and more out of control the book has a warm authenticity and knowingness that keeps you invested.

Any novice can make some sort of joke about manure on a farm, but you have to know what you're doing to make a couple of funny comments about the inner workings of manure spreaders. And it's the little throwaway lines and observations that especially tickled me. Falling for a woman because she wore honest work boots, pick-up truck envy, how much planning a community puts into a fireworks display - this is real, and when you kid about it then you're kidding about things that strike an authentic chord.

As a bonus, under the silly plot and even the funny crosstalk there are some honest matters being considered. Faith, loneliness, pride, humility, nostalgia, the "old ways", and even middle age, are treated with restraint, respect and insight, (although even then there is room for an edgy poke or two).

So, I found this to be well written, even-handed, funny, and purposefully outlandish in a very entertaining and satisfying fashion. A nice choice. (Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
Profile Image for Evanston Public  Library.
665 reviews60 followers
January 15, 2016
Shy bachelor Harley Jackson walks into his barn on Christmas Eve to discover his lone milk cow standing with her newborn calf who, disconcertingly, has the face of Jesus on his side. "That's trouble," Harley immediately recognizes. Harley lives in the house in which he grew up, loves his place in his small town, loves the familiarity of it all even if he is a bit lonely so his solution is to try to hide the calf. It doesn't work.This sly first novel assembles a cast of characters who are funny, unassuming, clever and charming, and who help or hinder as is their wont when all hell breaks loose.

(Nancy E., North Branch)
Profile Image for James.
1,101 reviews40 followers
March 13, 2015
I am a big fan of Michael Perry's previous books, but his first novel is a bit clunky and has some strange pacing. The book is at its best when it explores small-town life (Perry's familiar subject) and finds the gentle humor in its characters and the idiosyncrasies of rural life. There is some lovely writing in it, and Perry's writing is always joyful and fun even as the plot flails around.

[I received an advanced copy of this novel. It will be published May 19, 2015.]
5 reviews
July 5, 2015
Honestly I think I appreciated this book more than some because Michael Perry is from my neck of the woods and I have heard him read/speak/present many times. He is so dang real and humorous while being sensitive and so smart. This thinly veiled fictional account is so much about the town of New Auburn and a funny fictional event that I could see really happening in a small town. I laughed many times and also found myself going , "Ahhh, that poor guy." Loved it.
Profile Image for Jessica Pippin.
40 reviews
June 14, 2015
This was not the quirky, small town drama I was looking for. I made it halfway through the book, and still nothing had happened. It relies too heavily on its characters, which normally would be ideal for me. But these characters were flat and uninteresting. It's too bad. This book had some potential. Love the cover design.
130 reviews1 follower
February 5, 2015
a quirky book nearly ruined by a dreadful ending. the stark contrast between the end and the rest of the story made me wonder if there was a different editor involved. I hope the final edition that goes to print fixes this problem.
Profile Image for Brook Packard.
35 reviews2 followers
July 8, 2018
If Carl Hiaassen had a northern midwest doppelganger, it would be Michael Perry. Rarely does a book have me simultaneously laughing out loud, turning pages to see what's coming next, and pausing to contemplate life's Great Truths.
Profile Image for Sandy.
755 reviews
June 4, 2015
3.5 stars. Folksy and very Wisconsin. A calf is born with the image of Jesus Christ in its side and much ballyhoo transpires. This is at times very funny, but it has it poignant moments.
275 reviews8 followers
June 11, 2017
Holy Calf!

The Jesus Cow is set in fictional small rural Swivel, Wisconsin. On Christmas Eve, single guy Harley Jackson's cow, Tina Turner, gives birth to a bull calf. To his dismay, the flank of the calf is marked with the face of Jesus Christ. As Harley, comments "that's trouble."

And so begins Harley's frightening, often amusing, philosophical, and sobering adventure as a man unwillingly thrust into the limelight. At first Harley tries to hide the calf from all but his best friend and advisor Billy. Billy encourages him to take advantage of this cash cow, but Harley prefers to cover the lord's image with black shoe polish. He is especially eager to hide it from his new lady friend. In short order, the town and the entire nation know about the Jesus Cow. The town is overwhelmed with religious pilgrims. Harley is forced to sign on with a talent agency. The calf is insured by Lloyds of London, there is a security team, neon lights, tons of advertising, and the manufacturer and sale of all manner of calf memorabilia. All on Harley's farm in the little town of Swivel.

We are also introduced to a cast of slightly eccentric townspeople. Klute Sorensen has big dreams of entrepreneurial success. He rides around town in his Hummer, listening to motivational tapes, and bullying others. Carolyn Sawchuck is a failed professor and writer. She lives in the town water tower and has a grand plan to save the environment. Margaret Magdalene Jankowski was widowed young, runs a salvage yard on her own, and is devout in her faith. And Mindy, a confident new woman in town with a pick-up truck and good boots who literally charms the pants off of Harley.

Living in a smaller town in central Wisconsin, I really enjoyed the local flavor and recognizable characters. As a humorous work, the characters are appropriately overblown in their stereotypes and goofiness. The premise of the story was interesting. However, the book lost steam for me in the second half. The first half of the book, in which the characters were introduced and the drama was set up, was funnier and more enjoyable to me. There are some great descriptive paragraphs. The second half of the book dealt with the fall-out of fame, religious zealousness, blind faith, and the impact on everyone in town. Harley experiences a crisis of religious faith himself. While the philosophizing is not too heavy, I felt that it took away from the humor. I would have enjoyed the book more if the humorous tone was even throughout the book. The plot "twists" were predictable and everyone live happily ever after. Based on The Jesus Cow, I would not read this author again.
11 reviews1 follower
September 29, 2019
The Jesus Cow is a novel requiring readers to suspend their disbelief. And frankly I'm willing to suspend, trading my commitment to that for a worthy read that delivers a story with some complexity taking me deep into that world. This was not a fair trade. Given the humorist nature of the author, perhaps that trade deal was never on the table. Instead character development thinly veils the window into where the entire plot progresses. By page 85 the whole future plot flashed before my eyes. 👀 Reading on the one open question that remained, will Harley Jackson end up with the woman I think the early pages set him up for? You guessed it, in the end on that detail I was wrong.
Profile Image for Jim.
166 reviews15 followers
March 8, 2017
An enjoyable read; with some great observations on life and faith.
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