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Heart in the Right Place: A Memoir Paperback – Aug 19 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (Aug. 19 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565126130
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565126138
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.1 x 20.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 295 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #896,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Former U.S. Senate counsel Jourdan writes of giving up her fast-paced life in Washington to work in her father's family medical practice office in east Tennessee. "For forty years, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week," she writes, "Momma and Daddy ran a homemade, low paid 911 service for a large rural community. There was no such thing as a day off, ever." When her mother had a heart attack, leaving the front desk unmanned, Jourdan returned home to help keep the area's only doctor's office afloat while she recovered. What began as a two-day stay stretched out indefinitely, forcing Jourdan to learn to "calmly register nice people with hard jobs who routinely came in covered in hog or chicken blood." Missing Washington, she wrestles with questions of courage and loyalty, belonging and identity, and living with meaning and purpose. The demands of her new job test her, from the drama of triaging the waiting room and the tedium of negotiating the Medicare coding system to the loss of several favorite patients. In the end, she finds that she is after all her parents' daughter, possessing strength that earned her mother the nickname " Sarge," as well as her father's selfless devotion to this working-poor community. Jourdan's dispatches from the reception desk make for a stirring, beautiful memoir that is alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, and ultimately a triumph. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

One day she's hearing congressional testimony and attending black-tie fund-raisers, the next she's filing Medicare forms and mopping up bodily fluids. As the [...] child of a country doctor and his receptionist wife, Jourdan respected her parents' selfless commitment of caring for the disenfranchised people of east Tennessee, but she reveled in her glitzy life as a superstar lawyer in Washington, DC. When her mother suffered a heart attack, however, Jourdan was called home to help out for a "few days" that quickly turned into weeks, then months. Faced with the dilemma of forsaking a high-powered career that could influence matters on a national level for a menial job that directly affected the lives of one small town, Jourdan was surprised to discover that sometimes the greater good can best be served one person at a time. With lavish affection, genuine respect, and exuberant humor, Jourdan offers a zestfully compassionate portrait of a poor community rich in the ways of true humanity. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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AS I UNLOCKED the front door of the office I could hear the phone ringing. Read the first page
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By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER on Sept. 24 2011
Format: Paperback
This was a beautiful, serene, relaxing memoir and I absolutely adored this story! The characters are real and endearing, each of them carving out a special place in your heart. And what a gorgeous name of this town "Strawberry Plains", how delicious is that?

Writing about a small community where everyone knows everyone else and a hometown family physician, family run is also what makes this memoir so intriguing. Jourdan writes about her experiences in her father's medical practice with honesty, integrity, humour, and with a compassionate flair for the people they treat. No big office buildings with opulent furniture and expensive decorating and big medical bills to match. Back to a time when the town Doctor often didn't charge his patients if he knew they were indigent, and sometimes accepting "other" payments like a day of squirrel watching on the property of a man who wasn't quite right in his mind. Such a show of respect, compassion, and understanding on the part of Dr. Jourdan was a true showing of his moral beliefs and lessons he never forgot and applied to the very special patients in his practice.

Carolyn Jourdan has written with such vividness that it was an easy slip into the pages to walk amongst the words and feel them, snuggle into them and experience the Great Smoky Mountain area just like the generations of family who have resided there for years and years. Jourdan mentioned penning a sequel to Heart in the Right Place and I certainly hope she continues with it and sees it through to completion. I'll be first in line to pick it up. I would highly, highly recommend this beautifully written memoir for all ages. This is the type of memoir that will stick with me forever.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This started out a bit cute but quickly became tiresome. The author was too cute by half and it just didnt play. It was one anecdote after another most of which were unbelievable and not even funny. I gave up after 25%.

I suggest the author get hold of DVDs of the wonderful British series Doc Martin to see how a quirky rural medical practice should be presented.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 275 reviews
87 of 91 people found the following review helpful
Charming, inspirational, and unputdownable!!!! Aug. 18 2007
By Maudeen Wachsmith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When Senate Counsel Carolyn Jourdan returns to the mountains of eastern Tennessee from Washington, DC after the sudden illness of her mother, she has no idea how long she'll be needed to fill in her role as receptionist for her father, the kindly country doctor. She figures at first it will just be two days. But readers can be glad that it wasn't as in Heart in the Right Place, Jourdan takes the reader on a true journey of the heart to the people of eastern Tennessee and through all the trials and tribulations of a small country one-doctor medical practice. One where he might be paid in even a fox carcass if he charged his patients anything at all.

We meet and learn to love the patients in the practice such as the eccentric Miss Hiawatha and the kindly Mike who doesn't hardly know he is handicapped. And then there are the two friends Obie and Kermit. You never know what kind of predicament they are going to get themselves into next and what kind of injuries it's going to cause. Each time they come through the clinic door it's going to be something totally different. The big question on everyone's mind is, will Carolyn stay in eastern Tennessee where she earned $0 in one year or return to her high-power, six-figure job in Washington, DC?

It was recommended I get this book via Amazon's Customers Also Bought feature after I had purchased another book. I clicked on it and read the description. As a long-time medical office employee it sounded right up my alley. But it would appeal to anyone who enjoys sweet stories with quirky characters such as the Mitford series by Jan Karon or anyone who lives the TV series Northern Exposure or Ballykissangel. But these are very real people here, not those from fiction. I laughed and I cried, I read passages out loud to my husband, and I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning two nights in a row to finish it. I can't recommend this book enough. You will want to buy one for yourself and another as a gift for someone you care about.
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Page turner June 9 2007
By Linda L. Lansberry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
What a surprise. It looked like a good read, but I couldn't put it down. The first book in a long time that I read in one day. Enjoyable, funny, tear jerker, heart warming all fit this this book.
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Solid, never sappy, read. March 4 2008
By C. Gouker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Readers looking for something touching and personal will certainly enjoy this. It is a fast book to read, mixing humor and poignancy well. If you like A Prairie Home Companion With Garrison Keillor (30th Anniversary Season Celebration) then you will be interested in this. The book does tend toward over-long explanation, especially at the end. The tale could have finished on a more powerful note if it had been three chapters shorter. However, if you are tired of reading books that cram the heroine's love life down your throat, you will certainly enjoy the maturely understated love that may be blossoming for Carolyn here. Just a note of warning to the squeamish, there are graphic descriptions of accidents and surgeries.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
What a Great Book! Feb. 4 2008
By Dennis Phillips - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A very good friend recommended this book to me because I don't live very far from the town where the author's father practiced medicine. It turned out to be an excellent recommendation because I don't know when I have enjoyed a book more than I did this one. Being a native of the same area as the author I recognized many of the characters that she describes although they have different names and live a little farther to the east. I even had a relative who was just like Miss Hiawatha. Miss Hiawatha in case you are wondering is one of the many delightful characters that populate this book.

The basic plot of this book follows a powerful Washington DC attorney (the author) who has to take a leave from her job as a Senate council to come back home to East Tennessee to help out her parents. Her father is a doctor in a small town just outside of Knoxville who offers care to anyone and everyone regardless of their ability to pay and he even takes things like chickens in trade. Because of that he can't afford to hire a receptionist when his wife suffers a heart attack and has to take some time off. The author plans on spending a few days helping out but days turn into months and she ends up getting very attached to the job.

As she tries to settle in to her new duties the author runs into a cast of characters that could never be called up from even the most fertile imagination. Besides Miss Hiawatha there is a farmer who has the worst luck in the world and a George Jones like character who gets drunk and drives his lawnmower down the four-lane highway. And those three are just the appetizers. There are parts of this book that will make you laugh so hard that you will cry. Of course with this being the story of a doctor's office there are other very sad stories that will make you cry for other reasons. This author has a distinct talent for causing her readers to get very attached to the characters that she writes about.

On the technical side this is a very well written book and it contains some very thought provoking chapters. The author put a lot of feeling into this book and it shows. Above all though this is just an enjoyable book about some wonderful and sometimes eccentric people who reside in East Tennessee. This was a very good book and it is one that will always hold a special place in my personal library.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
"The only way to change your splatter pattern is to change your center of gravity." Aug. 26 2010
By Julee Rudolf - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
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.