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Book: Heart In The Right Place

December 22, 2008
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Continuing in the heart-stirring, charming, feel-good reading for the end of the year, I just finished Heart In The Right Place, by Carolyn Jourdan. Also recommended to me by someone at work (a different someone), this is a memoir of a woman who gives up her fancy Washington D.C. job to fill in for her mother as receptionist at her father’s small country medical practice, while her mother recovers from a heart attack.

Refreshingly written in a clear, simple, straightforward style, the anecdotes of her father’s country patients — who rarely have the means to pay in cash — are hilarious and touching. Her portrait of her father as a crotchety, good-hearted, hard-working country doctor was similarly funny and moving.

However, this is not in any way a caricature of “country doctor office adventures;” rather, it’s a story about her particular family and her particular situation. I always like that. Carolyn was a high-powered D.C. lawyer with a very high-level, well-paid job. She loved that job, loved being in the spotlight, loved feeling important. Suddenly, when her mother had a heart attack, she was called home to help out at the family practice. It was only supposed to be temporary.

You can see how this goes — two days turns into two weeks turns into two months turns into permanent. Carolyn goes through a lot of changes as she slowly accepts her new position in life — externally a far step down in life (from lawyer to receptionist, from high pay to no pay, from fancy condo to living in her parents’ basement), but internally, and to the people whom she loves, it’s a big step out into living from the heart.

She says:

Our whole lives were set up to give us every possible opportunity to do the right thing, to mature into good people. God didn’t care how or where we did it, just as long as we did. He gave us a series of choices. We had to take what we were and what we had and do the best we could with them. There were no extra bonus points for visibility or magnitude.

Exactly so.

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