Senate staffer, smart girl, and Christian Carolyn Jourdan returns from a high power (paying "nearly $100,000 a year") job to her roots in rural Tennessee to help her doctor father, while her mother recuperates, at his small town medical practice, described as (p 177) "an icon," at which he provides excellent service to an array of colorful characters with a wide spectrum of ailments at bargain prices (not exceeding (p 150) $62 in its 40 years in existence). She explains the routine of her unpaid position as, (p 124), "Every day in this place was spent viewing the most personal and critical moments of other people's lives, but from an oddly disjointed perspective." Ms. Jourdan's memoir is an assemblage of unusual and oft-humorous stories about the local folks as remembered during a period of about a year, tales ranging from basic and benign to outlandishly embarrassing. Providing this type of personal information about patients begs the question, What about HIPAA?
Because both her mother (in pharmacology) and father have PhDs, it's no surprise that they (in their seventies at the time of the story) were able to start the practice in the first place. The amazing thing is that they kept at it for so long in spite of the difficulties and sacrifices involved in doing so. Dr. Jourdan regularly provides medical care to anyone who shows up at his office, regardless of his or her ability to pay (which involves, at times, some unique nonmonetary compensation). At first, Carolyn holds out hope of returning to continue in her more glamorous work in D.C. Ultimately, though (readers know at the outset from the dust jacket), she decides to stay in Tennessee and help her family. She describes this career change as (p 295), "I moved myself out of my favorite position as the center of the universe and decided to hang out on the sidelines for awhile." Of Dr. Jourdan and his (consisting mostly of family) staff, a patient says it best, (p 176) "Y'all are just good people."
Although I enjoyed reading: some of the stories of the every day goings-on at the office, the information about rare military vehicles and the section involving open-heart surgery, I couldn't shake the thought that there was something wrong with all that private patient information (even with names changed) made public. The memoir seemed to drag in parts (by mid-book, especially in light of the fact that readers know from the start that she decides to stay, I was ready to hand in the towel, but plodded on to the end). I found the title, which I interpreted as something like, lookatmeIhavemy Heart in the Right Place bothersome. And I was disappointed when, at a certain part later in the book, Ms. Jourdan almost entirely stopped mentioning her mother. To make up for that, an Epilogue or Afterward would have, I think, been appropriate. And who dedicates a book to over a dozen persons? Heart in the Right Place, though only so-so, tells the story of a set of super, selfless, septuagenarians. Better: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.