Originally a three-part series in the New Yorker, this is an account of McPhee's six months of observing rural family doctors in Maine. It is both an engaging portrait of a kind of family practice increasingly rare in America, and implicitly an argument that those involved in professional medicine consider the tradeoffs in choosing between urban, high-tech, specialization and rural family practice where they know whole families in the context of community over time.

The narrative, based on interviews with physicians, some patients, and observations of clinical encounters, follows the daily routines and decision-making of several rural practitioners who consciously chose against the more lucrative, prestigious option of urban private practice, specialization, or academic medicine.


McPhee's particular gift is to give nonfiction journalism the liveliness and appeal of good fiction. His portrayal of the doctors, the families, and the rural environment is well-detailed, gently humorous, and focused on issues important to both patients and doctors in a time when the incentives for physicians in training to choose against rural family practice are strong. He articulates in a humane and comprehensible way physicians' struggle to maintain a balance between personal interest in patients and scientific rigor.


First published: 1984, in the New Yorker.


Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Place Published

New York



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