Saturday, December 10, 2016

Medicine Men: Extreme Appalachian Doctoring by Carolyn Jourdan

The title of Carolyn Jourdan's book, Medicine Men: Extreme Appalachian Doctoring, sounds a little frightening, doesn't it? But, it's just the opposite. The author of the nonfiction bestsellerHeart in the Right Place compiled a collection of vignettes, true stories told by doctors who practiced medicine in the Appalachians. Most of them are humorous stories, and Jourdan adds one-liners or simple comments with punchlines in between chapters. But, those stories reveal it wasn't easy to practice medicine in the shadows of the mountains.

Jourdan's book covers seventy-five years of medicine, from 1930 to 2005. And, each doctor who relates an anecdote practiced for over fifty years. Looking at those dates, it's no surprise to learn the early stories deal with doctors or patients sho served in World War II. There are stories of bravery, accounts of necessary action taken by men who didn't want to remember their service. There are family stories, some by Jourdan who talks about her father who practiced in East Tennessee, stories of wives and children called to assist the doctor in the family. Because of the dates and locations, all the doctors in this book are male. But, the patients were men and women and children. And, Jourdan tells of proud people who might not be able to pay the doctor in cash, but would do their best to honor a debt. Some of the stories bring tears. There's the ninety-year-old widow, crippled with arthritis, who made a quilt for Jourdan's father. And, there's a haunting story of a young miner, and the decision Carolyn's father was forced to make. There's even a story of a loyal dog.

The friend who gave me this book referred to it as a snack-size collection. He's right. It's not a big book, but it's full of heart. It's a book that made me laugh, but brought a few tears as well. Carolyn Jourdan herself summed up the doctors, their patients, and the stories told in the book. "It says everything you'd ever need to know about love and kindness, patience and courage, and Southern lives, well lived."

Carolyn Jourdan's website is

Medicine Men: Extreme Appalachian Doctoring by Carolyn Jourdan. Jourdain-Michael. 2012. ISBN 9780988564312 (paperback), 170p.

FTC Full Disclosure - A friend gave me a copy of the book.


Beth Hoffman said...

I have a feeling that I'd like this book. Will add it to my list. Thanks, Lesa!

Lesa said...

I think you would, too, Beth! You're welcome.