Visiting Tom : a Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace

Author: 
Perry, Michael

Acclaimed author Perry returns with the tale of Tom Hartwig, an old-timer best known locally for building and firing homemade cannons. Famous for driving a team of oxen in local parades, Tom has an endless reservoir of stories dating back to the days of his prize Model A.

 

What can we learn about life, love, and artillery from an eighty-two-year-old man whose favorite hobby is firing his homemade cannons? Visit by visit—often with his young daughters in tow—author Michael Perry finds out.

 

Toiling in his shop, Tom Hartwig makes gag shovel handles, parts for quarter-million-dollar farm equipment, and—now and then—batches of potentially “extralegal” explosives. Tom, who is approaching his sixtieth wedding anniversary with his wife, Arlene, and is famous for driving a team of oxen in local parades, has stories dating back to the days of his prize Model A and an antiauthoritarian streak refreshed daily by the interstate that was shoved through his front yard in 1965 and now dumps more than eight million vehicles past his kitchen window every year. And yet Visiting Tom is dominated by the elderly man’s equanimity and ultimately—when he and Perry converse as husbands and the fathers of daughters—unvarnished tenderness.

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Discussion Guide: 

General Book Club Discussion Questions

1. What did you like best about this book?

2. What did you like least about this book?

3. What other books did this remind you of?

4. Which characters in the book did you like best?

5. Which characters did you like least?

6. If you were making a movie of this book, who would you cast?

7. Share a favorite quote from the book. Why did this quote stand out?

8. What other books by this author have you read? How did they compare to this book?

9. Would you read another book by this author? Why or why not?

10. What feelings did this book evoke for you?

11. What did you think of the book’s length? If it’s too long, what would you cut? If too short, what would you add?

12. What songs does this book make you think of? Create a book group playlist together!

13. If you got the chance to ask the author of this book one question, what would it be?

14. Which character in the book would you most like to meet?

15. Which places in the book would you most like to visit?

16. What do you think of the book’s title? How does it relate to the book’s contents? What other title might you choose?

17. What do you think of the book’s cover? How well does it convey what the book is about? If the book has been published with different covers, which one do you like best?

18. What do you think the author’s purpose was in writing this book? What ideas was he or she trying to get across?

19. How original and unique was this book?

20. If you could hear this same story from another person’s point of view, who would you choose?

21. What artist would you choose to illustrate this book? What kinds of illustrations would you include?