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Population: 485 [Kindle Edition]

Michael Perry
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (137 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $13.99
Kindle Price: $8.57
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

Here the local vigilante is a farmer's wife armed with a pistol and a Bible, the most senior member of the volunteer fire department is a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both of whom work at the only gas station in town), and the back roads are haunted by the ghosts of children and farmers. Michael Perry loves this place. He grew up here, and now -- after a decade away -- he has returned.

Unable to polka or repair his own pickup, his farm-boy hands gone soft after years of writing, Mike figures the best way to regain his credibility is to join the volunteer fire department. Against a backdrop of fires and tangled wrecks, bar fights and smelt feeds, he tells a frequently comic tale leavened with moments of heartbreaking delicacy and searing tragedy.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When writer Perry returned to his tiny childhood town, New Auburn, Wisc., after 12 years away, he joined the village's volunteer fire and rescue department. Six years later, he'd begun to understand at last that to truly live in a place, you must give your life to that place. These charming, discursive essays are loosely structured around the calls Perry responds to as a volunteer EMT, including everything from a collision at the local Laundromat to heart attacks, fires and suicides. Perry's mosaic of smalltown life also paints charming portraits of the town's memorable characters, such as the One-Eyed Beagle, another firefighter. Perry's insights into the small-town mentality come from apparent contemplation, and he writes about them with good humor, in prose reminiscent of Rick Bragg's: "The old man says he had a woozy spell, and so he took some nitroglycerin pills. This is like saying you had high blood pressure so you did your taxes." In spite of an enormous surprise in the final chapter, the book's lack of central conflict leaves it feeling desultory, like a collection of good magazine pieces rather than a propulsive chronicle of quirky small-towners a la John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Still, there are moments in which Perry achieves an unforced lyricism: Rescue work is like jazz. Improvisation based on fundamentals.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Being a volunteer EMT is no small challenge, even in a town as small as New Auburn, Wisconsin. Perry mixes his tales of heroic rescues with his stories of small-town life. His book opens with his team attempting to rescue a teenage girl from a disastrous car wreck on a dangerous bend of road. As part of the volunteer fire department, Perry--along with his brother and mother-- pulls people from mangled cars and answers 911 calls from critically ill people. He also relates how New Auburn got its name (after going through three others), and shares the lives of his fellow volunteers, such as Beagle, a man who can't use the town's only gas station because both of his ex-wives work there. He details the technicalities of being a volunteer--the many terminologies one needs to memorize, and also crucial, life-saving techniques, such as CPR and controlling a house fire by puncturing a hole in its roof. Tragic at times, funny at others, Perry's memoir will appeal to anyone curious about small-town life. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 562 KB
  • Print Length: 234 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; 1 edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000UKON30
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,096 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoughtful celebration of what ties us together October 30, 2002
What a treat to find this great new book! This is a memoir by the most interesting character you could imagine. Michael Perry is a poet, a registered nurse, a trained EMT and a volunteer fire fighter. After years away from his small home town in rural Wisconsin, he returns and writes about the things that happen to him there. The result is a funny and often moving account of the things that are really important in life - with insights that can be gained only from a man faced daily with life and death situations. Perry has a beautiful cadence to his storytelling and makes the transition from laugh out loud storytelling to heart-wrenching tragedies seamlessly. I swallowed the book whole and marked up my copy with underlined quotations and margins full of stars of agreement. A definite must-read.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant Surprise! November 17, 2002
By jan
I am a former resident of the small town in Mike Perry's new book, Population 485. Thinking the book would be a humorous depiction of life in the midwest, I settled down for a light-hearted story. Though there was indeed some laughter, there was also tears and wisdom gained through Mike's insights on the meaning of life. This ranks as one of my favorite books and highly recommend it to everyone. I am now looking forward to his next book!
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Birth, Life, Death- the whole damn thing October 29, 2002
By Chris
Lyrical, sometimes funny, often meditative observations on small-town life. This book is similar in flavor to Thomas Lynch's The Undertaking. The author's ruminations about his life, past and present, arise out of the emergency calls he responds to as a part his town's volunteer fire department and EMS response unit. While the subject matter may seem depressing, it certainly is much more about life, especially the well lived life, rather than death. Highly recommended.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Population: 485 Will Make You Appreciate People December 11, 2003
Author Michael Perry is a poet, registered nurse, EMT (emergency medical technician) and volunteer firefighter in northern Wisconsin. Perry grew up on the family farm and rarely went to town for anything but school activities. Now, 20 years later, he's been away and moved back. He lives in a weather-worn-house on Main Street in this town of 485 where good-paying jobs are 30- or 40-miles away.
Perry's memoirs, Population: 485, Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, is a breathtaking account of life in small-town America where weirdoes and oddballs, the upscale and the downtrodden, the fast lane and the slow pace all merge as the fabric of community life.
After years away he returns and writes about being a townie and foreigner at the same time. The result is funny and moving, an account of things that are truly important in life with insights that can only be provided by one who faces moments of life and death daily. Rarely but occasionally childbirth occurs in the arms of the rescue squad. One of Perry's ambulances carries the insignia of a stork, departmental recognition of its delivery on-board. More frequently and without regard to religious preference, income status, political belief or necessarily age, rescue squads see life at its other end, and Perry takes you on a ride that shifts between laugh-out-loud storytelling and delicate description of heart-stopping tragedy.
Population: 485 could be about this town or any other small town. Once through this book will not be enough. I find myself turning again and again to the description of the farmer's wife armed with a pistol and a Bible or that of the senior member of the fire department, a cross-eyed butcher with one kidney and two ex-wives (both work at the only gas station in town).
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Often on target December 30, 2002
Population: 485 is starting to take off in volunteer fire and EMS circles. There are two reasons for this. First, it's always great to see a book that glorifies what you do. Second, Perry's experience and way with words allows him to nail many of the details of the work. His passages on emergencies he has dealt with had me nodding my head in recognition, and even sometimes -- as in his section about EMS's obsession with overcomplicated mnemonic devices -- exclaiming my agreement aloud in empty rooms. In these parts of the book, Perry comes closer than any writer I can think of to imparting what it feels like to be an EMT or firefighter in the situations he describes.
However, not all the book is about that. To prove his erudition, Perry salts his book with historical information he cannot make interesting compared to his central subject. These end up looking like he's marking time through this short book because he doesn't have anecdotes enough to fill it. (One of his asides about Emperor Trajan, however, was trenchant.) Also, little redundancies from chapter to chapter reveal how this book was stitched together out of separate articles or essays -- either it should have stayed an essay collection, or the editing should have been done more carefully. And occasionally Perry's "macho poet" stylings can be a bit precious.
All in all, though, Perry's book is worth a look. It is a quick read, and Perry can turn a phrase well. Most importantly, nothing else I have seen captures the feeling of being a small town volunteer like Population: 485. Writing from Population: 633, I salute the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book and great condition
Published 5 days ago by Dan Ohlmann
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
One of the best books I've ever read.
Published 23 days ago by Frances Leath
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth the Read
A well-written picture of rural America and what it is to be a paramedic/firefighter. The 'action' vignettes are riveting, but the historical tidbits, which some are interesting... Read more
Published 25 days ago by Stacie Morrell
5.0 out of 5 stars Down-Home Charm
Michael Perry hits HOME with ALL of his down-home Charm!! Of course it helps I grew up with him and graduated from the same little town of New Auburn.. he says Nawburn! Read more
Published 3 months ago by Beverly Potter
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't Finish
I gave up on this book. I just didn't like the author's writing style: too meandering and it feels like he's trying too hard to be poetic. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Aurora Grace
5.0 out of 5 stars A bone-crushingly good writer
A portrait of small-town America and its first-responders by one up to his eyeballs in both. He’s a bone-crushingly good writer. Perry's book has such a big heart. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Richard Gilbert
4.0 out of 5 stars Small town life
A quaint tale of small town life, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking. Collection of essays. The author has returned to his rural hometown where he joins the volunteer fire... Read more
Published 7 months ago by mrsg
4.0 out of 5 stars Real Life Revealed
I am the author of "Paths Crossed: Villains-Victims-Victors." After a fellow author reviewed my book she suggested I read "Population: 485", saying that Perry does... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Clifton Edwards
1.0 out of 5 stars Boring self absorbed. Did. Not finish
sorry not up to your ability. liked previous books on pickup but this one did not keep my interest. refund ?
Published 8 months ago by Dave Smith
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book.
I am not sure a person would like this book if they had lived in a big cosmopolitan area all their life. I found it a nice read.
Published 8 months ago by Darlene Hand
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More About the Author

Michael Perry has written for numerous publications, including Esquire, the New York Times Magazine, Salon, and the Utne Reader. A contributing editor to Men's Health, he lives in northern Wisconsin with his family.

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