A novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Published by Lake Union Publishers
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In 1959, Dr. Lucille Armstrong, or Dr. Lucy as she is called, practices medicine of sorts in a small Texas town. Although she is a “doctor of human beings”, she spends most of her time taking care of stray and injured animals.
To support them and herself, she occasionally treats people; “ it’s not a hobby, I do it for the money.” But because “people there didn’t take well to a woman doctor”, her patients are not always the town’s model citizens.
Dr. Lucy lives alone except for the menagerie of injured animals she has doctored back to life. She likes her life the way it is, until she opens her home to three unexpected and unlikely guests.
Their effect on her life causes her to realize she doesn’t like being alone, it was “just better than being with most of the people I’ve known.”
Two of them were boys, Pete and Justin, who learn they live in a world where “just walking down the street together can get you viciously beaten.” The other, Calvin, a man who quit smoking, helps her learn to trust again. He remembers the day he quit because it was the day the Surgeon General announced smoking is harmful to health.
I have reviewed several medical books, all of them non-fiction. I also enjoy medical fiction and have read many, mostly along the lines of medical mystery/thriller/drama. Probably the best known medical fiction are those written by physicians –
This book is different. I identified with the main character, a woman physician. Like her, I entered medicine when there were not many women physicians. I like that she doesn’t read the newspaper because “the news breaks my heart.” ( It breaks mine too but I still read it.) Dr. Lucy saves letters; not just the ones she receives, but copies of the ones she writes.
As is true in the practice of medicine, the main subject of this book is pain, along with loss,grief, injustice, loneliness, fear and anger.
But it is equally about resilience,recovery, friendship, love, sacrifice, and healing .
Almost like a surgeon, the author skilfully uses words to dissect and repair intense human interactions and emotions.
The book intrigued me even more when I learned the author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, has written over 30 books, including Pay It Forward (1999) named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.
The book became a major motion picture, Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment.
In 2000 Ms. Hyde founded the Pay It Forward Foundation, a 501 c3 Non-Profit Organization dedicated to promoting opportunities to do just that.
“The philosophy of Pay It Forward is that through acts of kindness among strangers, we all foster a more caring society. In the book, Reuben St. Clair, a social studies teacher in Atascadero, California, challenges his students to “Change the world”. That’s something we would all like to do, right? What if we could change the world, even in some small way?
One of the students in the class is Trevor, who takes the challenge to heart. As he goes about his day, he wonders what he could do, just a twelve year old student, to change the world. He starts by showing kindness to a stranger, and from there, moves on to the next person he can help.”
Besides mentioning the Surgeon General’s warning about tobacco use, Say Goodbye for Now references another historical event that impacted the characters’ lives.
In 1968 the Supreme Court considered the case Loving vs the Commonwealth of Virginia that challenged laws prohibiting interracial marriage. The ruling in favor of Mildred and Richard Loving changed their lives and thousands of couples since.
Like most good fiction, this book left me feeling I made new friends. They were not perfect people , but none of my real friends or I are either. Each character faced the “rottenness of the world”, finding a way to live in it anyway and doctoring each other back to health.