From the publisher—
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 developer hooked on self-improvement audiobooks is threatening to pave the last vestiges of his family farm; and inside his barn lies a calf bearing the image of Jesus Christ. Harley’s 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 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.”
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 per- centage) of the calf. Does Harley hide the famous, possibly holy, calf and risk a riot, or give the people what they want—and in the process raise enough money to keep his land and, just maybe, win the woman in the big red pickup?
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 souvenir snow globes. Soon, Harley has lots of money . . . and more trouble than he ever dreamed.
There are things about The Jesus Cow that take me back to simpler times in my younger days, most of them very positive memories even if colored by the mists of time. I miss the old days when we children could be gone for hours at a time and no one worried about horrible things happening to us. I miss having multiple families operating almost as one, i.e., having picnics and the like and all of us, kids and adults alike, just enjoying the comfort of familiarity. Today, we would say that kind of atmosphere is found most often in small towns and, if I could just bring myself to give up the creature comforts of such things as nearby grocery stores and movie theaters and restaurants, I’d move to a small town in a heartbeat. (Not in the Midwest, mind you—I’d have to stay in the South.)
It’s Michael Perry’s evocation of that atmosphere that I enjoyed most about this book, along with his gentle humor. Nothing made me guffaw but I frequently smiled at what was going on and the reactions of Harley and everybody around him to the so-called miracle living in his barn. Mr. Perry is spot on with his pokes at townsfolk and spectators alike and Harley is one of the most appealing characters I’ve come across.
Imagine if your quiet, rather mundane, life was suddenly turned topsy-turvy by the hoopla created by media. Would you deny it all, turn the miracle-seekers away and close yourself off to the world? Or would you say “what the heck” and jump into the middle of it? The tale of what happens when Harley takes that leap will keep you entertained for hours and maybe make you think just a little bit about people’s motives for the things they do.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, May 2015.
About the Author
Michael Perry is a humorist, radio host, songwriter, and the New York Times bestselling author of several nonfiction books, including Visiting Tom and Population: 485. He lives in rural Wisconsin with his family.
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