Population 485 by Michael Perry

Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time

Another recommendation from my son Matt. He knew I’d like this memoir from a man who moved back to his hometown, New Auburn, Wisconsin where he joined the fire department.

The author tells about his ways into the ordinary and ragged lives of his neighbors in that rural small town. A good memoir contains lyrical moments of reflection and disclosure between the observed and narrated events. Here’s one of those moments, near the end of the book,

My grandpa died in the farm yard he was raised in, but during the interceding eight decades he left tracks in every quarter of the globe. “All you need is an apple and a newspaper to sleep under,” he’d say…When I was still a smooth-faced kid, he picked me up at the farm and took me to the city to catch my first Greyhound. When that big bus heaved out of the lot and rolled out of town it seemed I was playing hooky from everything. I talked to a cowboy-booted wino in the backseat and his gentle lies about a fresh start planted a wandering seed in my head…Grandpa got me started, and to this day my two favorite things in the world are solitude and motion…But as much as I love to run, I love even more to come home…At every latitude, my compass swivels to point back here, to little old New Auburn. this place is my true north. A stray dog running, as it turns out, is just circling the rug.     pp. 208-209

That’s an American soul and an American voice.

Michael Perry

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