More Things in Heaven and Earth: A Novel of Watervalley. Jeff High. Penguin Group (USA). October 2013. 464 pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9780451419262.
Deep in debt from medical school tuition, Luke Bradford agrees to pay it off in service as a primary physician for three years in a rural Tennessee town. Luke would prefer to be a research specialist, but that is not to be. The beginning of that service is far from noteworthy; indeed it is hilarious as he manages to bumble his way into town and practically burn his own lovely new home down. He worries that the town residents will think him a bumbling fool, especially as he manages to inadvertently joke about a teacher to a woman he finds attractive, little realizing he has started off his wooing with an extremely funny but definitely insulting faux pas!
Little by little he manages to impress the town with his medical expertise. He even manages to befriend a recluse who was once very active politically and socially but who knows secrets that Luke doesn’t have a clue explain his wealthy but antisocial present status. In between running the clinic, he has some amusing encounters with his housekeeper, a woman “of color” who seems highly educated and a definite match for witty remarks.
Then comes a devastating health crisis in the town with its flu-like symptoms that fall fast and hard on men, women, and children. After far too long trying to figure out its source, Luke discovers the secret hidden out of fear and greed; passing that test provides Luke with a new perspective. It reveals much of his own childhood background that has left him feeling like an outsider. For it’s not the town’s residents who have shut out Luke but he who has always kept a thick line of reserve as he yearns for the day he can leave to get on with “what really matters to him.” Meanwhile, he is having the opposite effect on everyone who have the highest respect for him and are also beginning to care deeply about him, especially when they see him agonizing over his inability to find the source of this sudden and drastic illness.
The surprise discovery and moments after that self-revelation are lovely to read. Luke is now on the road to truly becoming a community authority and beloved member!
More Things in Heaven and Earth… is an engaging and quaint story that has just enough crisis and tension to keep a very simple but endearing story moving and moving! Highly recommended!