The Reading Plan for “Heart in the Right Place” {Book Club}

We will officially start June’s book next week since, well, it isn’t June. But if you’re on the fence about joining the book club (and the way you join is super easy: you get the book and read along with us, commenting as you’re comfortable), I want to give you the nudge that says do it!

Our next book is Heart in the Right Place by Carolyn Jourdan and here is the over reading plan:

June 2 — Chapters 1-7

June 9 — Chapters 8-14

June 16 — Chapters 15-20

June 23 — Chapters 21-25

As a brief review, here’s what the book is about: “Carolyn Jourdan, an attorney on Capitol Hill, thought she had it made. But when her mother has a heart attack, she returns home—to the Tennessee mountains, where her father is a country doctor and her mother works as his receptionist. Jourdan offers to fill in for her mother until she gets better. But days turn into weeks as she trades her suits for scrubs and finds herself following hazmat regulations for cleaning up bodily fluids; maintaining composure when confronted with a splinter the size of a steak knife; and tending to the loquacious Miss Hiawatha, whose daily doctor visits are never billed. Most important, though, she comes to understand what her caring and patient father means to her close-knit community. With great humor and great tenderness, Heart in the Right Place shows that some of our biggest heroes are the ones living right beside us.”


Last week I was sharing about our book club on my blog and who should leave a comment? Carolyn Jourdan! I was stunned and excited. I’d love to know how she found out about us, wouldn’t you? The internet is still a great mystery at times. Anyway, I haven’t contacted her yet, but since she reached out to us, I thought we’d reach out to her and see if we could get her to pop in to the book club. Stay tuned.

In the prologue, Carolyn shares when she was a child her dad showed her an x-ray of a girl whose heart was backwards in her chest.

Thirty years later, the image still haunted me.

What point was God trying to make with the little girl’s life?

He’d been more merciful with me. Despite my early fears that my destiny was to spend my entire life as an utterly powerless witness to one medical disaster after another, I’d eventually grown up and landed a good job in a city far from the mountains of East Tennessee, neatly sidestepping my role as spectator to any more catastrophes. Or so I’d thought.

Look back to your childhood and where you thought (or feared) you’d end up. If you juxtapose it with where you are now, how close are the two images? How are they similar? How do the differ.

A few weeks ago I was having lunch with a woman from church as a thank you for coaching a young man on public speaking. She asked how I’d gotten into speaking and I said I knew I’d either be in politics or a teacher and both needed public speaking ability. In High School, since my singing career was about maxed out (not pity party, reality party), I switched from taking choir to taking forensics (not the CSI kind, the cool kind). Thanks to Mr. Shepherd and the other delightful mis-fits in my class, the official training began.

In asking more questions she found out my career aspirations in the third grade was to be the president of the United States. She said she’d never actually met anyone who wanted to be the president. What?! Doesn’t every American secretly yearn to be the president? I can see given the career choice/calling why she might have been confused. I had let the whole “become president” thing die since I don’t have tons of money or connections and I knew the amount of time in China, of all places, doing what we do, kind of sealed the deal too.

How about you? What conversations or events stand out from your childhood? How did they prepare you? Or did they propel you toward something different? Isn’t it fun to look back and see God at work where we might not have noticed before?

You know what I’m going to say … see you in the comments!


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


  1. Elizabeth May 25, 2015

    So cool that the author found you Amy! And I didn’t realize until just this morning, that the book is a memoir and NOT fiction. It reads so well, and I had just assumed it was fiction. A couple of really beautiful/funny lines that I’ve noticed so far:

    “Helma wore a faded green polyester leisure suit with an oddly intriguing assortment of safety pins arranged along the edge of one lapel.” The assortment of safety pins made me laugh out loud, literally.

    “To tamp down my panic I tried to think of the ICU as a sort of spa. A really, really expensive spa. For unconscious people.” Again, laughing out loud here.

    “Inside a barn is a whole universe, with its own time zone and climate and ecosystem, a shadowy world of swirling dust illuminated in tiger stripes by light shining through the cracks between the boards.” That is beautiful. “Illuminated in tiger stripes.” Just beautiful.

    I am going to enjoy this book so much more now, knowing it’s real. I had been wondering how much research the author had had to do to have so many details correct about farming, small town community, and medicine, in order to write a fiction book on them. Now I understand! LOL on me!

    And to answer your question — yes it’s fun to look back and see God at work when we didn’t think He was. I think I can basically say that about everything that’s ever happened to me. But that would get too long. So, to quote my dear friend Tigger, TTFN! Ta ta for now!

    1. Amy Young May 26, 2015

      And I wrote her three questions (asking if she’s like to share with the book club — about cross-cultural stuff, the title, and how long her dad was able to keep practicing medicine). She got back to me within the HOUR. Classy.

      I’m with you, knowing something is real, makes it so much more enjoyable :). And I the way she describes parts of her life and drops in hilarious descriptions.

  2. Ashley R May 25, 2015

    I’m so excited that y’all are reading this book. I read this during my first term here in China, and I loved it, even if it did make me a bit homesick for East Tennessee. I love it when people write well about my home culture in a way that makes me laugh out loud without insulting the culture or the people. It could be a serious cross-cultural experience for some VA readers! I may have to re-read and join in the comments for once. I have read a lot of your book club books, just much later than the actual book club discussion.

    1. ErinMP May 26, 2015

      I do that too with the books. 🙂 Where were you in TN?

      1. Ashley R May 26, 2015

        I’m originally from Elizabethton, way up in the northeast corner of the state.


        1. ErinMP May 26, 2015

          Like the movie! This is going to sound silly…but I didn’t know that was a real place. I thought the movie made it up. Oh dear.

          1. Ashley R May 26, 2015

            The movie is Elizabethtown (with a “w”)…maybe a real place. I know there is one in Kentucky, but I never saw the movie and don’t know where it’s supposed to be set. I think it’s not very accurate in its portrayal of Appalachian culture, though…This book, however, is an excellent and beautiful and funny picture of my culture. Can’t wait for y’all to read it!


    2. Amy Young May 26, 2015

      Ashley, can you be our resident, as Carolyn called it, “hillbilly country?” So glad you can share with us!!

      1. Ashley R May 27, 2015

        Amy, hoping I can chime in here about the book. I read VA all the time but rarely comment thanks to the busy-ness of homeschooling four boys and trying to learn Chinese. But I’ll do my best!


  3. ErinMP May 26, 2015

    Talking about what propelled us in our younger years…well I “knew” I wanted to be an M when I was in 5th grade (I cannot for the life of me remember why, I wasn’t even going to church at the time, though I was Christian), and I officially felt the soul-calling when I was 16 looking at a population-demographics chart in Mexico (talking about all people groups though), and bam, I just knew where God wanted me to go first.

    But as a teacher? I was dead-set against that. I came from a family with a lot of teachers and so, one, I felt unoriginal. Secondly I didn’t really like anyone in my family. That sounds harsh, but most of them were pretty mean, and one or two were very emotionally and verbally abusive to me when I grew up, and while I assumed they were different in their classrooms (one I actually know is, she’s quite wonderful to her students), I didn’t want to be in the same boat. I also knew I wasn’t teacher material–I’m flighty and spastic, add, hate crafts, am messy, and break rules constantly. I got good grades in school mostly by accident and dropped out of college about 3 times before I finally finished. Even my degree was late to the game–my major is in psychology, my minor is in teaching.

    But what happened was God. My mentor had a younger daughter who was struggling in school but connected with me, and so I began tutoring her at least two times a week, sometimes more. To my complete shock I found I loved it; but I assumed it was only this one child. God kept opening doors for me to be around schools though; for high-school and college volunteer projects I was only able to get to schools, my friends began needing tutoring, I spent several years teaching or co-teaching sunday schools (usually by accident) and when I realized I needed a part time job I applied to be a TA with the local school district on an on-call basis and was called regularly, almost daily, to various schools. I was discovering I loved it and, to top it off, began realizing through study that a lot of Ms were teachers (to the point of it being cliche, something I did not know), and education did make a difference in the world–much more than I had realized before. Suffice it to say I suddenly became excited, got on board at the last minute, and got hired even more last minute. I am 3 days away from finishing up my first year and while I’m not staying at the school (my choice to leave to a healthier environment, as some of you know), I am staying with teaching–I discovered once I was in the classroom that I LOVE it, and I love that I can combine teaching with M work and travel!

    1. Amy Young May 26, 2015

      I was dead set against being a teacher too! No way, not gonna go down that path. Both grandmas and my mom were teachers. Flee, flee!

      Guess what I’m really good at and enjoy :)?



      1. ErinMP May 26, 2015

        🙂 Haha! I’m not alone.

        1. Bethany H June 11, 2015

          You’re not alone! I used to say I never wanted to be a teacher, but I had a feeling it was something God had for me. So I prayed that he’d a) hold off as long as possible and b) make me love it. Two years later I was teaching in a school for MKs. And I LOVED it!

  4. MaDonna May 26, 2015

    I remember sitting on the floor at a very young age listening to an M share about I think Africa. I remember wanting to go there- to travel outside my town of 500 people. In high school I had a substitute teacher that talked of her travels, which deepened that desire. In college I went on trips to teach English – and that sealed the deal for me, but also opened my eyes to the needs of the lost.

    Interestingly though, something else is coming up from my past that I thought would NEVER happen. When I left the US, I left behind a desire to own horses to ride….I had volunteered at a therapeutic riding stable and that really interested me. Well, I’m taking my first course this summer to receive my certification and it’s here in Taiwan in English. We hope to open a place for therapeutic riding in a few years….it is almost as unbelievable to me as it was when I first moved to China 17 years ago. It goes to show you that no matter your age, God can still surprise you with granting desires of your youth.

  5. Ashley R May 26, 2015

    My strongest memory relating to where I wanted to end up is from early elementary school. I was at VBS listening to an M from Ethiopia speak, and I knew in that moment that I wanted to do what she did. This woman was and still is a dear family friend, and I realize now (just now…30 years later) that it wasn’t what she did that attracted me but who she was. Maybe I really did want to live overseas and do this kind of work, but I am realizing more and more, especially on the hard days, that what that little girl at VBS was really drawn to was knowing the love of Jesus so deeply that it radiates from me. I succeeded at what I thought I wanted, getting overseas, but I am so very far from what I was really being called to in that moment.

    1. Amy Young May 26, 2015

      and I realize now (just now…30 years later) that it wasn’t what she did that attracted me but who she was.

      Wow. And I loved your last line … that you are far from what you were called to (okay this sounds bad, I don’t mean, that’s what I love; but that you got a call that was about WHO you are, not WHAT you do)

  6. Ruth May 26, 2015

    I started reading yesterday and got totally sucked in.  As in, I also finished reading the book yesterday…not the best for my time management but really satisfying.  I really loved it, both learning about a different lifestyle than anything I have experienced and for some significant ways that it parallels my own life.

    1. Amy Young May 26, 2015

      This. Made. My. Day.


      🙂 … thank you.

  7. Joy May 27, 2015

    Funny book!  We know this area of east TN well, and it was great to “be” there again.  I found this on our e-library site and really enjoyed the light, humorous read.  Thanks for the recommendation!

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