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Heart in the Right Place: A Memoirby Carolyn Jourdan
Synopses & Reviews
Carolyn Jourdan left her beloved Tennessee hometown for a career in Washington, D.C. For twenty years she worked with the country's most powerful people. A successful attorney, she was smart and ambitious, and she believed her work made a difference.
So when her father asked her to come home and be the receptionist at his tiny rural doctor's office while her mother recovered from a heart attack, Carolyn reluctantly agreed, thinking she could handle it — for a day or two. Her job now included following hazmat regulations for cleaning up bodily fluids; maintaining composure when confronted with a splinter the size of a steak knife; distinguishing between a "pain," a "strain," and a "sprain" on indecipherable Medicaid forms; and tending to the loquacious Miss Hiawatha, whose daily doctor visits were never billed.
Slowly her fast-track Washington world began to pale in comparison with her new life. And her father proved more heroic and devoted than any politician she'd ever met. He made a difference every day, treating each patient, no matter how crazy or ornery or obnoxious, with dignity. And so, now, did Carolyn. Told with tremendous heart, this is the story of how, sometimes, you can — and should — go home again.
"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)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Jourdan offers a zestfully compassionate portrait of a poor community rich in the ways of humanity." Booklist
"Carolyn Jourdan's compelling memoir is by turns hilarious, sobering, and wise." Kate Whouley, author of Cottage for Sale, Must Be Moved
"This is a wonderful book. I would have enjoyed it even if Carolyn wasn't a neighbor of mine in East Tennessee. She is a great writer."
—Dolly Parton, Singer, Songwriter, and Actress
Carolyn Jourdan had it all: the Mercedes Benz, the fancy soirees, the best clothes. She moved in the most exclusive circles in Washington, D.C., rubbed elbows with big politicians, and worked on Capitol Hill. As far as she was concerned, she was changing the world.
And then her mother had a heart attack. Carolyn came home to help her father with his rural medical practice in the Tennessee mountains. She'd fill in for a few days as the receptionist until her mother could return to work. Or so she thought. But days turned into weeks.
Her job now included following hazmat regulations for cleaning up bodily fluids; maintaining composure when confronted with a splinter the size of a steak knife; distinguishing between a "pain," a "strain," and a "sprain" on indecipherable Medicare forms; and tending to the loquacious Miss Hiawatha, whose daily doctor visits were never billed.
Eventually, Jourdan gave up her Mercedes and made do with a twenty-year-old postal jeep. She shed her suits for scrubs. And the funny thing was, she liked her new life. As she watched her father work tirelessly and uncomplainingly, she saw what making a difference really meant: being on call all hours of the day and night, tolerating the local drug addict's frequent phone calls, truly listening to Miss Hiawatha. It meant just showing up, every day, and taking care of every person in Strawberry Plains and beyond, whether he got paid to do it or not. And for his daughter, it meant learning that her real place to change the world was right here—in her hometown—by her father's side.
About the Author
A former U.S. Senate counsel, Carolyn Jourdan is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker. She lives in rural Tennessee.
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