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Truck: A Love Story
Author: Michael Perry 
Publisher: Harper Collins (Oct. 17, 2006)
Hardcover: 288 pages

Wisconsin author Michael Perry has likened success in writing to shoveling manure: just keep working at it ‘til you’ve got a pile big enough that someone notices. During the year or so after the release of his much-lauded memoir Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, Perry amassed a good-sized mound of anecdotes which he spreads like Miracle Grow throughout his latest book, Truck: A Love Story.

Gliding gracefully between work boot vernacular and polished, poetic prose, Perry braids together three main “stories”: the plotting and planting of his modest, backyard garden (“Seed catalogs are responsible for more unfulfilled fantasties than Enron and Playboy combined”), the extreme rehabilitation of his 1950’s L-120 International Harvester truck (“I like the feeling of lying on my back beneath the chassis trying to reach a rusted nut…”), and the potential loss of his bachelorhood (“Shortly after my first date with Anneliese, a woman who had come to know us both sent me a firm note that concluded with a time-honored blessing: Try not to screw it up!!!”).

Once Perry acclimates his readers to small-town living, he slaps a trouble light in their hand then unashamedly pops the hood on his own somewhat rusted, dented (but delightfully amusing) life. During the emotional, mechanical, botanical odyssey Perry highlights his encounters with both backwoods and big city oddballs, including his sledgehammer-wielding neighbors, a slew of literary escorts and Hank, a one-eyed land surveyor. Perry aims to focus on his truck, his girl and his garden, but the stream of consciousness approach he employs this time around leads him into hilarious harangues on subjects as disjointed as cookbooks, squirrels and NPR.

Although Truck is not as fully cohesive as Population: 485, Perry delivers an immensely enjoyable read (think a kinder, gentler Chuck Klosterman or a Carhart-clad Bill Bryson). In this thoughtful record of a year in his life, Perry captures the true hearts of his fellow smalltowners while gently prying open the jaded eyes of any metropolitan gawkers.

Greg Adams
10/10/06
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