The Jesus Cow, by Michael Perry

Funny and biting, Perry's "The Jesus Cow" is everything I wanted it to be. When one of Harley's cows gives birth to a calf with the unmistakable face of Jesus Christ in black and white fur on its side, Harley knows that nothing good will come of it. His little mid-Western hometown, Swivel, is economically depressed, and so is he: should he follow his instinct and get rid of the calf as soon as possible, or listen to his best (and only) friend Billy, who wants Harley to monetize the crap out of it?

Perry's send up of religion, capitalism, and small-town politics is done just right. There's nuance to even the most caricatured personality. The money-hungry financial bulldog, Klute, is also a lonely middle-aged man on the brink of ruin; the town nut, snobbish academician Carolyn, is finding that all the brains in the world can't beat having a good friend; and Harley himself is the very picture of the stoic, farm-raised "Scandihoovian", but he'd really like a little poetry and art in his life. There are hilarious moments and touching moments, and even as he skewers the evangelical American, Perry injects a stunning humanity into the most ridiculous of situations. This is a wonderful, page-turning read.


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