Perry sets the story in Swivel, Wis.--population exaggerated at 562--only visible from the interstate by a long-stemmed, halogen-lit Kwik Pump gasoline sign whose "logo glows against the sky." He focuses on resident Harley Jackson, who lives in the house where he grew up, on 15 acres of deteriorating farmland. When his prized cow, Tina Turner, delivers a bull calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ on its black-and-white patchwork hide, Harley, a born-again believer, doesn't drop to his knees. Instead, he says, "Well, that's trouble."
Whether the calf was marked by God or not, Harley doesn't want anything to disturb his manageable, unassuming life. But when the Jesus calf escapes from the barn, the animal's image goes viral. Harley's upper Midwest farm soon becomes an international spiritual destination--a circus that sends the town residents into a tizzy.
As in Truck: A Love Story and Visiting Tom, Perry once again delivers his own brand of outlandishness through rich, endearing characterizations of quirky small-town folks, and how their zany foibles and flaws mask underlying disappointments, secrets and longings. By deploying humor in depicting the often painful truths and absurdities of life, Perry successfully makes much larger statements about society and the human condition.
Harper, $25.99 Hardcover, 9780062289919, 304 pp
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Note: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different form) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (5/26/15), click HERE
This review was also featured (in a longer form) on Shelf Awareness: Book Trade (5/11/15). To read the longer review click HERE