After nineteen years away, writer/EMT Mike Perry returns to his hometown of New Auburn, Wisconsin (population: 485) and joins the volunteer fire department. Two of his brothers are also volunteers, their mother is an EMT, and the operation functions within such a small, tightly-knit community that nearly all emergency calls have some personal relevance to them.
Perry reflects on many of the town's traditions and characters, beginning with the history New Auburn, its inhabitants, and its fire department. He spends several chapters describing his sometimes hilarious, sometimes gruesome personal experiences as a nurse and urban ambulance worker before his eventual return home, as well as small town lawn ornamentation, vanishing family farms and businesses, and the difficulties of "belonging" in a town where, as he says, "working-class prejudice never quite shakes the idea of art as frivolity." The book concludes with Perry's retelling of an incident in which tragedy strikes his own family, and the book's theme of family and neighbors rescuing each other.
This report prepared by Jacqueline West