So We Don’t Miss The Real Significance of Events {Book Club}

It’s hard to believe we have come to the end of Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan. One of my favorite parts in the comments has been when you’ve shared the parts that made you laugh. I had laughed too, but it’s a gift to laugh together, isn’t it? (And a blessing! Don’t you hate that feeling when you think something is funny and share and then it’s met with crickets chirping?) So, thanks for laughing too … and for sharing that you laughed, you didn’t leave me hanging! 

Remember I told you I got so excited I emailed Carolyn a few questions? She graciously replied!

Carolyn, one of the lenses we are reading Heart In the Right Place is through cross-cultural adjustment in the same country. Looking back on it now, what were some of the more difficult transitions? What ended up not being that big of a deal?
I missed my best friend the most. Leaving him about killed me. We talked every day by phone for years, then he married and had children. We still chat by email. It was also agony giving up the great ethnic restaurants and delis and the handmade clothes.
I do not miss having people make fun of my accent. Washington is a town full of every sort of accent, but it’s still considered hilarious to ridicule hillbillies. I could never understand why people don’t realize that we ALL have regional accents and these various accents sound different to each other.
I love the title and wonder how you came up with it. I may have overanalyzed it, but it seems to capture your journey of going from not really wanting to give up your Washington life (“My heart’s in the right place, but …”) to your heart really being in the right place, while playing on the well-known phrase. 
In Southern Appalachian Highlands dialect, having your “heart in the right place” means that you mean well, but are an idiotIt’s similar to the southern phrase “bless your heart,” which means the opposite of what outsiders might think it means. It has multiple meanings in the context of the book, more about the little girl’s heart being on the right side (one of an endless series of disasters I had to observe without being able to do anything helpful) and going from being overrated in Washington to being incompetent at my low status job in Strawberry Plains.
How much longer was your dad able to keep his medical practice? Are the people in your area still able to be cared for in the same way?
I stayed with Daddy as his receptionist for 4 years until he retired. Momma never came back to work. Momma and Daddy are both still alive. The first 3 doctors who tried to replace Daddy were outsiders who not accepted by the community and failed to establish a practice. Then a boy who grew up in the area came home and he has a thriving practice that includes me and Momma and Daddy and most of of Daddy’s patients.
Now for today’s section (and I’ll be brief for the sake of time, more in the comments!)
Chapter 21: “I didn’t pray because that would have meant I was entertaining the thought that Fletcher might actually be dead. This all had to be an awful mistake. A panicked misjudgment.” I get this.
Chapter 22: “I know it doesn’t make Washington sense, but I think maybe it makes sense here,” I said. This got me thinking about how something may not make sense in our home cultures, host cultures, in our organizations or even on our teams, but it makes sense. What holds you back from making choices that make sense? What helps empower you?
And same chapter: “Harley knew Daddy needed a big win to counteract his depression, so he decided, for Do he’d stop drinking.” Love the gesture of this gift.
I appreciated in chapter 23 after going into great detail on the fox hunt the way Carolyn turned the absurdity back on herself. “Observing the sullied opulence, I suddenly realized what it had been like to watch Jacob and me spring through a bad neighborhood in search of a taxi, disheveled, but dressed in a tux and ball gown on our way home from an inaugural ball.” This is a skill we could all use more of, amen? Amen!
In chapter 24 I was drawn to the idea of medical sacrament (as Carolyn said, Henry was a bit out there), but it made wonder where I can see the holy in the ordinary and reminded me when we read An Altar in the World  by Barbara Brown Taylor. Also loved the phrase and idea of “facing immortality.”
Anyone else clap their hands at the Old Maid Reference? We’ve made it here too!
Finally, it was the last two pages of this book that sold me on why we needed to read this as a community. I don’t want us to “miss the significance of the events” because of the enemy’s tantalizing lies. What you do matters.
Well guess what? After I got this written and all ready to go — Carolyn contacted us :)! Saying she’s been deeply moved by our discussion this month and asking more about Velvet Ashes. This delighted me no end–Daddy was happy to hear about us too! Carolyn read the emails to him.  Near the end of our discussion, she asked if we could do her a favor.

Could I ask you guys for a favor? It would be a great help if you would leave a review on Amazon. “Heart in the Right Place” has been inexplicably slow to get reviews for some unknown reason and it makes a great deal of difference how many reviews a book has.
It would help the book if you could leave a review at either for the ebook or for a paperback.
And/or a review on GoodReads.
Please convey my thanks and my love, respect, and awe to everyone for the work you guys are doing.”
Let’s do it! I’ll get mine up later today or this week.
What stood out to you? Where did you laugh or cry? I’ve really enjoyed reading this with you. See you in the comments. 🙂


P.S. Here’s the reading plan for The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Since we’ll be taking a Sabbath next week, get a jump on the reading — this book is  beautifully written:

July 7 — Roughly 40% (or 220 pages) — includes the chapter titled Adah and which with the line “God works …”
July 14 — Roughly 60% (or 330 pages) — includes the chapter titled Leah which begins with the line “You can’t …”
July 21 — Roughly 80% (or 440 pages) — includes the chapter titled Adah Price, Emory Hospital, Atlanta, Christmas 1968
July 28 — Roughly 100% (or 543 blessed pages!)

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 


  1. Emily June 22, 2015

    Ohhh man, the Poisonwood Bible!! That book ripped me apart. I read it while part of a book club in my hometown while we raised support. It was good then, but I desperately wanted to talk about it with other M’s. It was a tough book to talk about since most of the women weren’t Christian. Looking forward to this!

  2. Michele Womble June 24, 2015

    My favorite scene might be the fox hunt….with all those folks dressed up and chasing after the scent of a fox – but no real fox – some of them trying to be serious and all formal, some of them taking it seriously but informal, and some not taking it seriously at all…and all of them chasing a PRETEND FOX….there was nothing to catch….and then, so awesome!  As she and Matthew drove away a REAL fox was “not 200 feet away, up on a rock ledge… stood there majestically…calmly surveying the river bottom field where at least three dozen hounds milled about, baying as they tried to follow the trail of the scent lure….”

    WHAT a picture.  What’s real is oh, so close – but the world is chasing the scent lure of a fake fox.  I think this scene represents her at last realizing what is real and where her heart needs to be…seeing what she was doing in Washington (chasing the fake fox) and what she is doing here – seeing the real fox.


    Biggest laugh – was the guy who slit his throat flying out the front windshield, and her dad saying, “Well, it finally happened, I’ve waited forty years and somebody finally did it….put a tourniquet around somebody’s neck, I knew it was just a matter of time…”


    and I love this:

    “by intervening in each other’s traumas, we could utterly transform each other’s lives….”


    loved this book.

    Thank you, Amy, and Carolyn!

    1. ErinMP June 28, 2015

      The neck scene was also funny to me in a morbid way haha- and her comment about traumas. Note that traumas are the messiest most difficult pieces of our friends’ lives…but all the more important that we help out and intervene.

  3. MaDonna June 24, 2015

    The PRETEND FOX HUNT made me giggle as well. To funny.

    I also appreciated the thoughts that though what we do may seem insignificant to ourselves, in the bigger picture it’s not. We all have a part to play. I just really appreciated that.

    thanks, Amy for leading these book studies.

    1. ErinMP June 28, 2015


  4. Emily June 24, 2015

    I laughed that some of the riders “were so inept they’d actually fallen off their horses during the canter over level ground.” You can dress up all you want, but it doesn’t give you the skill to stay on a horse (especially if you’ve been drinking!). I also liked when Carolyn and Michael take the postal jeep out for a crazy test drive.

    I admire Carolyn making the decision to stay, after realizing that despite the high-end lifestyle and high-paying job in D.C., she was making a bigger impact on people’s lives in her own little hometown. The story highlights that we all long to make a difference in the world. I think for many of us, that is part of the motivation of moving to another country. We may have been able to get good–or even great–jobs back home, but we know we are making a bigger difference by going overseas instead. It is deeply gratifying to look into the eyes of the person you’re impacting, and to see up-close the changes that occur because you chose, in the words of the book, to “show up.”

    P.S. I’ve been reading along with all of you, but since we’ve been traveling, this is my first time posting in the book club. Hello, everyone! I look forward to getting to know more of you next month for The Poisonwood Bible!

    1. Michele Womble June 25, 2015

      Hi Emily! I was traveling some, too, and missed a week or two.

    2. ErinMP June 28, 2015


  5. Elizabeth June 25, 2015

    When she realizes there’s no way to move forward without deeply hurting someone she loves, that is an important crossroads for her I think. It’s like she realizes there’s no going back without pain of some sort.

    I was shocked when Fletcher died. I suppose they all were in real life, too. This reads so much like a novel that I would sometimes forget that these are real people, and in real life, people die unexpectedly. Each time it happened I was always so disappointed.

    Then after Fletcher’s death, that drug rep lady comes in and will.not.take.the.hint. She annoyed me. Greatly. But I loved the part where she realizes the whole farm was a keepsake — there was nothing there that Fletcher had not had something to do with at some point. I think that must have been very comforting, everywhere you go, there is a reminder of his goodness and kindness.

    Oh the story of Wormey and being thrown through the windshield because “seatbelts will kill you.” I laughed at her reply: “Yeah it’s quicker to just go on out through the windshield by yourself.” It was like she knew he wouldn’t take her seriously. But then the story about the “turkey neck”? I laughed SO HARD. I even interrupted my husband from his reading to tell him. Couldn’t stop laughing!

    So interesting at the fake fox hunt, how she realized there were just as many hillbilly millionaires as wannabe rider millionaires. “It just wasn’t part of southern highland culture to make a flashy show out of having stumbled onto some money.” Here in Cambodia, the wealthy flaunt their wealth (it has to do with “deserving” it because of good merit they earned in some previous life). Anyway they flaunt their wealth and are pushy drivers because they “deserve” to do whatever they want. (Yes, this is a cultural “twang” for me.) And then I comfort myself by thinking, “In AMERICA, we don’t do such things.” But who am I kidding? We just flaunt our wealth in different ways, because of our culture. It’s really just culture. Pride in our wealth is there, probably no matter what. We may be quieter about it in America, but it’s there. And we may think we deserve our money because we worked for it in THIS life and not a previous one, but we’ve all got love-of-money issues.

    The Surgery: whoa. I’m surprised she did make it through the whole thing. Also it really unnerved me. I thought, “Oh! Are they really all DEAD during surgery???” So I asked my doctor friend about it, and she said, no they’re not. “The heart is just a pump, and we’ve got machines that pump for it during surgery. Death and life are defined in terms of brain function. If you lose brain function, then we’ve really lost you.” Her answer was something to that effect, which comforted me. I didn’t like to think of people in surgery being killed and then being brought back to life! But that’s probably just me, LOL.

    I laughed that the clock actually had a label under it in the surgical suite! I was fascinated by her keen recollection of how they prepared the body for surgery, including the face and the eyes being oiled. And how you couldn’t really tell she was a person after all the wrapping and covering that happened pre-op. I also laughed about the terminology — having to keep “pleejing” the lady. Just such a funny sounding word.

    I was also very interested that they could tell she was lying about quitting smoking. Fascinating how our bodies can tell the stories of our lives, isn’t it? With bulimia it’s teeth problems from all that stomach acid, and sometimes heart problems, and with anorexia it can be osteopenia and osteoporosis (though eating disorders aren’t the only causes of that, it’s also hereditary). My midwife told me she can always tell a smoker after the birth, even if they lie to her and she doesn’t smell it during pregnancy. The placenta is all calcified, and she can always tell. To me that says a few things. One, that God made our bodies quite marvelously that they can tell our stories for us. Two, that our lies will catch up with us, and that our bad choices will also catch up with us.

    And all the trash that accumulates during surgery? Reminded me of my husband’s time in the ER, during traumas. Sometimes he “scribed” — recorded the medical interventions and result — and sometimes he “circed” — circulated around the room doing whatever the docs told him to do, like putting in IVs and such. And then cleaning the room afterwards. He always described it as such a mess. Everything’s sterile and pre-packaged, and when you take the medical equipment out of the packages, they get dropped on the floor. By the end there’s a crazy amount of wrappers and blood on the floor.

    “The cut was so long I could see the curvature of the earth in it” — just another example of her skill with words that drew me in in the very first chapters. And the black specks in the lungs, that was gross. City living. Ick. For all of us city dwellers! It intrigued me that she spent so much time detailing this one surgery when most of her life was in a small town doctor’s office. It must have made such a big impression on her. Also it shows the vast differences between her father’s practice and what goes on in big time hospital surgeries, which was sort of the point 🙂 Interesting how image was so important in the Senate and how she learned to always have perfectly coiffed hair and not to squint in front of the bright camera lights.

    At Michael’s funeral the line was so long — such a beautiful testament to his enduring influence on people, and the mutual love they all shared. Reminded me of when my husband’s mom died. The line stretched all the way around the church building and parking lot, too. It was exhausting for the family. But such a blessing too, to know how loved you and your family are.

    I loved her Daddy’s take on not wanting to know everything in his own body, because we all have things wrong with us, but not every aberration leads to disease. “Nobody’s normal.” Better not to know the harmless abnormalities! But we have a “need” to know these things in today’s medicalized world.

    It was a sad conversation with Cheryl. Made me so sad. “Being a cheerleader was fun, but I never figured it’d end up being the high point of my life.” This depressed me so much. And then to know she’s on her 3rd marriage, and even it’s on the rocks. So sad to think of someone being so unhappy and looking back on a better time and not feeling the hope of every recapturing that. I hope she found happiness with that husband.

    Another sad part: when Jacob is in Fiji and the both he and the guy he’s with are sitting on this beautiful beach with all the luxuries money can buy, and they’re both lonely, wishing they could share those moments with people they loved. But I loved the splatter-pattern conversation that came after it.

    I also loved “By intervening in each other’s traumas, we could utterly transform each other’s lives.” Yes. Totally love that last section as you’ve mentioned. “It was about seeing what other people needed and doing it. It was about the fundamental act of placing our attention outside of ourselves and onto other people who needed it. Fletcher and Michael had been really good at that.” “God didn’t care how or where we did it, just as long as we did.  . . There were no extra bonus points for visibility or magnitude.” “A lot of the most important things are downright invisible, and rightly so. We’d do them for the wrong reasons if they weren’t.” Whoa. Her monologue in that last section was so deep and profound I pretty much underlined all of if.

    1. Michele Womble June 25, 2015

      I did the same thing, interrupted my husband,  to read him the part about Wormey :-).

      Cheryl, and then Jacob in Fiji,  – so relevant to the fox hunt – they had “caught” what they wanted – and it was just a scent lure, not the real deal.  So sad.

    2. ErinMP June 28, 2015

      New way to look at the body-telling-our-stories, thanks for that insight.

      I was sad for her too, but she seemed to be sticking by her sick man, so there’s hope there for a semi-happy ending! (And I think semi-happy endings are all we get this side of glory ha). It reminds you that everyone you have envied at some point have their own battles they fight…so we women need to stick together instead of tearing each other down and apart etc.!

      Amy- love the book club, I really am hoping to keep it up when teaching begins again…and to answer old Q…visiting my compassion child was awesome. It’s amazing to see how a child on the other side of the world is living, and motivates you to keep helping and supporting. Anyone with compassion should seriously consider a trip I’d say. 🙂 Cool Q&A with author!

      1. Elizabeth June 28, 2015

        “We women need to stick together.” So.much.truth.

  6. Elizabeth June 25, 2015

    And I plan on going and writing a review later, too. 🙂

  7. Emily June 26, 2015

    I posted a review. I hope we can all do that and help her out, because it’s a great book! 🙂

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