Two books briefed
By TERRY MATHEWS, News-Telegram Arts Editor
Heart in the Right Place
By Carolyn Jourdan Algonquin. $23.99. 304 pp.
Oct. 9, 2008 - Carolyn Jourdan thought she had left her hometown of Strawberry Plains, Tenn. in her rear view mirror. When her mother has a heart attack, Jourdan leaves a job as a high profile attorney in Washington, D.C., to care for her mom and help her dad at his small medical office.
Jourdan's warm memoir, "Heart in the Right Place," chronicles her experiences at the front desk of her father's office and the adjustments she makes to life in a small town.
The book has gathered a basket full of honors, including "A Best Book Club of 2007-2008" by Book Sense, "A Best Book of 2007-2008" by The Literary Guild and "A 2008 Top Summer Read" by The New York Public Library.
Jourdan's opening chapter spotlights her quick wit and sharp sense of humor as she recounts her first day on the job.
As I unlocked the front door of the office I could hear the phone ringing. I hurried inside and stretched across the reception desk to answer it.
"Dr. Jourdan's office," I said, out of breath.
"Do y'all wash out feet?" a woman shouted.
... "Excuse me?"
"Wash out feet! Do y'all wash out feet?"
"I ... I don't know." I sent up a silent prayer that we did not.
"Well she needs her foot washed out! How much do y'all charge for that?"
Jourdan's easy writing style moves the story right along. She makes you care about her mother's rehabilitation, her father's heavy workload and the health and well-being of the patients that cross her path. Her stories prove that people in small towns all across this country care about one another enough to make significant sacrifices. And that's a good thing.
The Children in Room E4
By Susan Eaton
Algonquin. $24.95. 416 pp.
Make no mistake about it. Award-winning journalist Susan Eaton has a passion for equality in education.
In her book, "The Children in Room E4," Eaton follows the teachers, students and lawyers involved in Sheff v. O'Neill, a landmark case brought against the school system of Hartford, Conn. The case highlights the stark differences between education in white urban areas and education in the inner city.
Eaton follows students in Ms. Luddy's room at Simpson-Waverly Elementary School, including Jeremy, her star pupil.
Eaton also taps into the story of the cracker-jack legal team that brought the case to court, focusing on their passion for the case.
The case, decided in favor of the plaintiffs, remains at the appellate level after 18 exhaustive years.
By telling the personal stories involved in Sheff v. O'Neill, Eaton saves the book from becoming another dry treatise on the failure of public education in poor neighborhoods.
While this book could not be classified as "light reading," it is a thoughtful and thorough look into the struggles and triumphs of inner city schools, their teachers and students.