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Population: 485- Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time (P.S.) Paperback – July 31, 2007
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Perry grew up in New Auburn, and like so many young people who spend their childhood in rural areas, left as soon as he could. After earning his nursing degree and working elsewhere for a dozen years or so, he made his way back to hometown where most of his family still lives.
And then he joined the volunteer firefighters, working alongside his mom and brothers.
This book is an extraordinary tale of answering 911 calls from the rescuer's point of view, as well as the joys of living in a very (very) small town. And it's fascinating! It's also scary, a bit gruesome (some chapters are not for the faint of heart) and heartwarming. (And the ending is heartbreaking.) Thank goodness there are people like Michael Perry who put their lives on the line for the rest of us. And thank goodness he can come home, fire up his computer and tell us all about it. Highly recommended!
Not many firefighters are dedicated to the literary tradition of writing, so it isn't easy to find such a talented voice to account their day to day lives. Perry is the man. Never have I had more respect for volunteer firefighters than I do now. In New Auburn, rarely are they truly off-duty. They leave work, family, or home at a moment's notice and even respond to calls alone with no idea of who will show up or when. Regardless of back up, when the beeper goes off Michael Perry goes running, sometimes in spandex cycling shorts, other times in cowboy boots.
The rural landscape has dangers all it's own: an explosively defecating cow or a clan of suspicious drunk rednecks armed to the hilt in the middle of nowhere. Despite the perils, Perry loves small town living, although he does sometimes get a hankering to take off and roam. He describes in warm detail the denizens of his environs and often accounts their deaths as well. In a town as small as New Auburn, everyone knows everyone, and it's hard to forget the exact curve of road where your neighbor died.
Death comes with the territory and Perry does not skirt it. He is a man's man, but with a sensitive side inclined to philosophize and contemplate all that he is witness to. When he's not skinning deer or traipsing through a swamp hunting duck, he's hanging out at the local poetry reading. There's a touch of Hemingway here, although unlike the American Master, Perry is expert at making fun of himself and bringing the "heroes" down to earth. He recounts the foibles, follies, and mishaps of the firefighters who respond in the middle of the night for almost no pay in hilarious detail. One minute Perry had me laughing out loud; the next I was struck silent by his ruminations on death, loss, and the intangible bonds of love that hold the entire town together.
Perry can fight fire AND write. An awesome combination.