While Population: 485 centers on several different themes throughout the book, I chose to focus my interpretation on the sense of belonging the author, Michael Perry, seems to crave all through the literature, and more specifically, during chapters one and seven. In chapter one, titled Jabowski’s Corner, he opens the door to his journey by bringing us to the small town of New Auburn, Wisconsin. This is the place he belongs. He introduces many of the people of New Auburn in every chapter, but I chose chapter seven because he describes the diverse groups of individuals that make up the town and refers to them as “My People,” which is also the title of the chapter. These are the people that make up the town, the people he belongs with. I
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“Twelve years I’ve lived away from here, and what I missed- what I craved- was the lay of the land. A familiar corner, a particular hill, certain patches of trees. I returned, and the land felt right. The land takes you back. All you have to do is show up. Finding your place among the people, now, that is a different proposition.” (p.111). He wants to gain back that comforting sense of belonging he once felt from the town he grew to know and love. “In a place from the past, I am looking for a place in the present. This, as they say, is where my roots are. The trick is in reattaching.” (p. 3).
Michael decides to join the New Auburn fire department as a volunteer fire fighter. He describes several incidents, in great detail, that he has encountered since starting there seven years ago. I find it interesting that he worked for over five years as an EMT in Eau Claire, and just vaguely shares one story about a call he responded to the first day on the job. He does not give many specifics about the accident, the people involved, or the location it happened. I guess because he is not connected with these people or this town, nor does he give the impression he desired to. When he tells a story of New Auburn, or any one of its people though, it is obvious that there is a lot more emotion and