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Updated: "He's insane"

ISLAND PRACTICE reviewed by The New York Times

Dr. Tim Lepore spoke recently to a rapt audience at Mitchell's Book Corner about the newly released account of his unique career, Island Practice. The author, New York Times writer Pam Belluck, profiled Dr. Lepore five years ago and clearly knew great material when she found it. She has spun that article into a full-length biography.

Here's the publisher's (PublicAffairs Books) summary:

If you need an appendectomy, the man operating on you can do it with a stone scalpel he carved himself. If you’ve got a condition nobody can diagnose—“creeping eruption” perhaps—this doctor can identify what it is, and treat it. A baby with toe-tourniquet syndrome, a human leg washed up on the beach, a horse with Lyme disease, a narcoleptic falling face first in the street, a hermit living underground—no matter what, Lepore is the go-to guy.    

Thirty miles out to sea, where wealthy people summer but independent-minded, idiosyncratic islanders live year-round, Lepore helps sustain sanity and a sense of humor. He’s surgeon, medical examiner, football team doctor, tick expert, unofficial psychologist, occasional veterinarian. When crisis strikes, as with a string of teenage suicides, he’s deeply involved.

He’s treated Jimmy Buffett and various Kennedy relatives, but makes house calls for anyone and accepts payment in oatmeal raisin cookies.

Lepore has unusual hobbies: he’s a gun fanatic, roadkill collector, aficionado of activities like knitting dog-hair sweaters. He can be controversial and contradictory, espousing conservative views while performing abortions and giving patients marijuana cookies.   
Ultimately, Island Practice is about a doctor inextricably vital to a community at a time when medicine is increasingly money-driven and impersonal. Can he remain a maverick even as a healthcare chain subsumes his hospital? While Nantucket is unique, every community has—or needs—a Doctor Lepore, and his island’s drive to retain individuality in a cookie-cutter world is echoed across America.

Today, the Times review is in, and I've given away the best line in it: “He’s insane,” says his son Nick, a lawyer.

But we knew that already. Nick's judgement may be accurate, but that crazy man saved my life. No exaggeration. He flat-out saved my life. I consider myself ridiculously lucky that he's my doctor. He's also my "primary care physician", but that's insurance company hooey. Tim is a doctor. They don't make them like him anymore. I see a TV series or feature film coming from this book. The question is, which actor could possibly do the role justice? Years ago, when the original Times profile came out, I teased the good doctor about his future celebrity. Tim, of course, shrugged off the teasing and the whole idea of fame. But was quick to add that Robert Duvall would be his choice.

If you were the director, who would you cast?

And, what Dr. Lepore stories can you share? For each anecdote in the new book, I am sure there are hundreds more.



Update 7.19.12: Variety reports "Island Practice" has been optioned for televison: Variety

Now the casting game can begin in earnest.



NY Times review here:


Rachel Dowling's picture


A better TV show than Wings! Can't wait to hear comments. It's a great read, he's a great guy.

I just finished this book and I loved it. It was very well written, a real page turner. I appreciated that it didn't talk about the rich people in the community constantly. It depicted Nantucket very accurately, I thought, as a place with a lot of characters dealing with a changing world.

I think it would make a great tv series: House meets Northern Exposure meets Doc Martin.

Tommy Lee Jones, or Sam Elliott. But, I don't think either one can giggle like Tim does when he

thinks something's really funny. Dr. Lepore is an Island treasure. I love that man, his wife

Cathy, and his entire family.