Friday, April 17, 2009


Sometimes when we” start out for town,” as my Grandmother Nell used to say, we end up miles away from Sewanee, searching for serendipity instead of running errands. Yesterday, when we had driven as far as Cowan, TN, we discovered a new bookstore, “The Book Brake,” that specializes in used and rare books,and we came to an abrupt halt before the small shop across the street from the old Cowan train station.

Inside, we found shelves of mysteries, classics, children’s books, and the rare ones that were out of our pocketbook range, settling for several $2 and $3 volumes, one of which was an old Graham Greene novel. However, the brand-new book with which I left the shop was a children’s book actually written by the proprietor, entitled MATT THE MOODY HERMIT CRAB. I bought the volume after a long chat with Caroline C. McGee, an M.D. who now lives in Cowan and who formerly practiced family medicine and specialized in care for patients with depression and bipolar disorder.

MATT THE MOODY HERMIT CRAB is the story of an imaginary creature, a hermit crab afflicted with bipolar disorder, which provides insight into the thinking and behavior of a young boy crab who has become convinced that aliens have taken over the world and he must stop them. Readers also experience life within the family constellation in which Matt, the hermit crab, learns to function without disrupting all the members with his irrational rages associated with bipolar disorder.

Caroline’s husband, a former publisher in Nashville, TN, published MATT THE MOODY HERMIT CRAB during the time he owned the publishing house, McGee and Woods. Caroline, who no longer practices medicine, is a living “profile in courage,” as she suffered a near-death experience resulting from a bicycle accident, and the experience left her with brain damage that affects her speech and limits use of one of her arms. The bookstore is her new terrain, but she has a formidable work history, having practiced family medicine for 16 years, along with the care she provided for those with bipolar disorders. She also worked with a Juvenile Detention Center, caring for behaviorally troubled youths, and was a founding board member of Tennessee Women in Medicine. She served on the board of Siloam Family Health Center, a clinic for indigents where she was a volunteer physician.

MATT THE MOODY HERMIT CRAB was illustrated by Nancy C. Hall, a renowned artist who lives in Nashville Tennessee. Her whimsical drawings of crustaceans remind me of the Clovis Crawfish series written by Cajun Country author Mary Alice Fontenot (now deceased). The illustration above is the cover for MATT THE MOODY HERMIT CRAB, an informative story that can be read at one sitting as it is little over 100 pages. For those of us who have at least one hermit crab of this variety in the family, the book is a “must read.” The hopeful take home message is that a person suffering from bipolar disease, when treated with appropriate medication in early childhood (and coupled with behavioral training) can become successful in any work he undertakes in adulthood. Caroline emphasized that early diagnosis and treatment of this disease results in enhanced functionality.

As I said, a trip to town isn’t always an occasion for errands! It’s nice to have another outlet for books in the area, particularly when you can find second-hand treasures for reasonable prices. Of course if you’re a book buff, the bargain prices will only encourage you to take home an armload!
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