Book Review: Michael Perry "Coop: A Year..."

Discussion in 'Random Ramblings' started by ukuleledave, Aug 7, 2013.

  1. ukuleledave

    ukuleledave In the Brooder

    May 9, 2013
    Mayberry, NC
    I've been catching up on reading, and figured I would share. -- ukuleledave

    Book Review: Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting by Michael Perry
    2009 HarperCollins

    What can you say a call a book called "Coop" in which the chickens don't arrive until page 248? This is a lovely book, with great humour, heart and personality.
    Michael Perry writes about "going rural" in taking over a Wisconsin farm owned bya family member.

    Perry is a contributing editor to Men's Health and has written
    for the The New York Times Magazine and The Utne Reader.

    "We are not alone in this: These Troubles Times seem to have precipitated a fowl renaissance. Mail carriers labor under a groaning load of multicolored hatchery catalogues, the latest issue of Backyard Poultry and perforated containers that peep."

    The book is part memoir and part critical observation about the sort of movement which draws urban and suburban dwellwers to try to raise chickens in the yard, and which draws just a few of those folks to move to the country. Chances are, you'll begin to recognize yourself to a certain extent.

    Perry begins the book chopping wood by hand, and remembering his parents moving a wood burning stove back into their own kitchen. Chopping wood, heating the house in part through the warm kitchen stove. He drops hints about getting livestock, but in the first hundred pages, Perry;'s farm animals seem limited to a single guinea pig.

    Perry does share some excellent stories about his own childhood on a farm, and his father's farm. There are plenty of funny stories. His father didn't own a cattle trailer, so they tied a cow to the car and drove slowly down the road, kids leaning out windows as they go. Perry takes you back to his childhood, and the memories are worth the read.

    Equally satisfying are the present-day stories about Perry's family, including his wife's decision to deliver at home, and Perry's relationship with his stepdaughter.

    By chapter two, Perry says "I am building a glorious chicken coop in my mind," and the reader assumes we're getting to the chickens. Not really. Perry's dad adds on the barn, and Perry finds religion in third grade. Just when I thought we were getting to the "coop."

    When Perry does tell about his farm, the stories are terrific. A dog bites him "greviously upon the ***" while he wrestles with a pig. He does get the chicks eventually, and builds a chicken tractor.

    "All day I work in the office with a clear view to the chickens below. I feel like the rancher of old, surveying my entire operation: two pigs, twelve chickens, one guinea pig (Amy puts him out to graze)."

    One bird turns out to be a "special needs" chicken, and the sections about Little Miss Shake-N-Bake are wonderful. She is the runt, who when eating "shoots wide a lot, but she is indefatigable, and even though she bats about .250, the cucumber slowly disappears."

    He tells of slaughtering chickens, and of losing birds to neighborhood dogs. We find Perry in the same sort of emotional shape that many chicken raisers find themselves. We're searching for a connection with the animals, and with each other through this experience of raising chickens.

    Perry doesn't offer much new information for chicken folks; he is after all, a beginner himself. He does offer kinship. There is this constant longing for this writer to do right by the animals on the farm. Underneath every chapter is an assumption that time spent with his chickens and pigs is time spent well. He seems to long for a connection to the land and to previous generations of farmers
    and pioneers.
    Plan on meandering trip through Perry's life, his family and his animals. It's a nice journey.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2013
  2. Whittni

    Whittni Crowing

    Mar 26, 2011
    Southern Utah
    I think I'd like to read it.

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