Book review of: Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan
Published by Algonquin Books on August 19th, 2008
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Amazon / Barnes & Noble
I picked up Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan on a whim – it was a “guilty pleasure” choice, not a book received with intents for reviewing; simply a book that pulled me in with the cover and decided to purchase purely for my own enjoyment. Now that I’ve read and loved it ~ I must share with you, my literary friends!
I ended up reading Heart in the Right Place while on a 9-hour drive, my darling boyfriend at the wheel, patiently enduring my giggles and laugh-out-loud moments every few miles.
Part of the appeal with this book was the actual setting, the hills of East Tennessee ~ mining and farming country, simple hard-working country folks; while the other appeal came from the storyline itself ~ country girl works hard, becomes big-shot attorney out to save the world in the hills and halls of Washington D.C. goes home to help out her parents for a couple of days while her mother recuperates from a heart attack. Carolyn’s parents run the only family practice in the small TN town ~ dad is the town doctor and mom is his receptionist affectionately called by the locals “Sarge.” Two days turns into two months turns into six. . .Carolyn continuously questions her decision – is she making more of a difference in Washington D.C. working with a panel of attorneys on the Nuclear program for a Congressional Committee or by being the pinch-hitter receptionist in her father’s small-town medical practice.
The humor with which Jourdan uses to survive and even thrive from her thrust back into small-town life was absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. When Carolyn walks into the hospital where her mother is hooked up to a variety of machines brings out the internal monologue of “Surely no one could die in this modern Frankenstein lab. If anything stopped working, they’d just plug in another machine. I was scared to see Momma like this. It wasn’t like her at all. To tamp down my panic I tried to think of the ICU as a sort of spa. A really, really expensive spa. For unconscious people.”
And probably the life lesson I enjoyed the most was from the good doctor’s best friend, local farmer, and dear to Carolyn: “The pitiful truth is that sometimes the best thing, the only thing, we can do for another person is just show up. We might not know how to do anything for them, but at least we can show up. And that takes guts. But everything takes guts. It takes guts to care about people. But what else are you gonna do?”
I honestly do not know how this happened, but would you believe that I did not realize Heart in the Right Place is a memoir until I was reading the author interview at the end of the book. I was astounded! and, I have another confession ~ I have avoided memoirs like the plague. I have never read one that I enjoyed (not that I’ve read that many, but still).
With that said, I must tell you how fantastic this book was. The people were so real, from the family doctor and the nurse to Carolyn and especially the patients ~ oh my goodness the patients! Many could not pay with cash, did not have insurance and so they would pay with plants, farm animals, jelly, vegetables from the garden to even one man who paid by showing his herd of goats to the doctor and his daughter. The camaraderie and love that flourished in the community and surrounded the people visiting the family doctor was palpable. And once I was finished and found out it was a memoir, the old saying of “you can’t make that stuff up!” rang true.
If I could have added anything to Heart in the Right Place, I would have some additional explanation about who a couple of the characters were ~ it’s probably my desire for a happily-ever-after ending where the couple get married and live fulfilling lives deep in the woods ~ but, there really wasn’t a love interest only a few dates. Give me more, more, my nosy side screams! Overall, Heart in the Right Place did just that – put my heart in a very happy, good place – I hope it will yours too!
I also did not realize there are two different covers ~ I definitely prefer the goat cover but wondered what you thought: goat cover or chair cover?