Bryson City Seasons: More Tales of a Doctor's Practice in the Smoky Mountains
In BRYSON CITY SEASONS, Dr. Walt Larimore's follow-up to BRYSON CITY TALES, Larimore invites us into the life of one doctor and his family experiencing life as a small-town physician, grappling with inter-office politics and jealousies, family life, tricky diagnoses, and questions of faith in a rural Smoky Mountain town in North Carolina.
As this sequel opens, Larimore and his big-city wife Barb are anticipating their tenth anniversary together. Their young daughter Kate, who was born with cerebral palsy, and strong-willed colicky little boy Scott, make up this family of "flatlanders" (the term used by the locals for outsiders). The Larimores have found that Bryson City has everything you'd look for in a small town --- from Super Swain Drugs, the old-fashioned drugstore with a breakfast and lunch grill, a loyal following of the high school football team's wins and losses, and small town parades complete with Shriner clowns on mini motorcycles, to the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club. Larimore paints an enjoyable yet realistic portrait of Bryson City, with all of its inviting warmth and disappointing warts.
Unexpected tragedies --- such as a man whose head is crushed by a tree, a first encounter with the death of an AIDS patient, and concern over a baby born with Down Syndrome --- all give Larimore opportunities to reflect on God as the director of "a great production." For Larimore, even his daughter Kate's cerebral palsy is a gift from God, who "knew exactly what he was doing."
"Even though I wasn't sure of all the whys and all the reasons for the many events in my life and my patients' lives that sometimes seemed haphazard or random, I knew there was One who did," Larimore writes. While some Christian readers will not adhere to Larimore's particular theology about evil and suffering, they should find his reminders of the confidence we can have in God's love and care for us compelling and reassuring.
But to imply that this is heavy reading would be a misnomer. The necessary darker side that writing about a medical practice necessitates is leavened throughout with Larimore's lighter reminiscences, including the hilarious recounting of his involvement in the Miss Flame contest. The readers see a different side of the doctor as he dons an overstuffed bra and midnight blue sequined evening gown, complete with blond wig and high heels to compete in the contest (and later sports a shiny red one-piece swimsuit). Other lighter moments include a "secret" recipe for barbecue sauce given to the reader, complete with a short recounted history of the condiment.
Occasionally, the text becomes a bit dialogue-heavy as Larimore relies on conversations to carry the stories. Larimore is also apt to fall into an instructional tone ("Researchers have now found that loneliness and anger are two of the leading causes of death. Even in the 1980s, an increasing number of well-designed studies...") and can't resist the occasional statistic or elaborating on a medical case. Some readers will enjoy these medical asides, while others may find that they slow down the pacing of the stories. Larimore ends his book with some hints at new troubles down the road and the potential of a new practice, which will keep his fans anticipating the next installment.
Those readers who enjoy Philip Gulley's "Front Porch" series or James Herriot's veterinary tales will embrace this Christian doctor's latest homespun reflections on his life and medical practice in a small town.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on October 5, 2004