Imaginatively titling his book based on a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet – the reason for which would become obvious to the reader as she reads through – is not the only clever take pulled off by author Jeff High in his first novel forming part of the Watervalley series. A humorous, heartwarming and highly readable endeavour, “More Things in Heaven and Earth”, is a joyous exercise in celebrating humanity. A medical degree from Vanderbilt University, two hundred thousand dollars in debt, and an exasperation over frequently living off peanut butter and jelly, more or less combine to influence young Dr. Luke Bradford’s decision to turn down enticing research offers and opt to set up a practice in the quaint and verdant town of Watervalley instead. Dr. Bradford’s entry into Watervalley is transformed, literally, into a unique combination of hilarity and embarrassment, as a necessary bout of incredulous calisthenics, while driving his beat up Corolla results in his getting out of the car, to greet the town’s mayor, in his underpants. When to add insult to injury, Dr. Bradford almost succeeds in setting alight his kitchen in a neat apartment on 205 Fleming Street, his choice of a career destination seems, putting it mildly, inauspicious.
How Dr. Luke Bradford adapts to a small town life and how he gets to grips with the incredible complexities and simmering undercurrents that symbolize the living and working of the inhabitants of Watervalley makes for some engrossing and enthralling reading. The myriad cast of characters, ranging from the irascible to the ingenious, leave the young and unsuspecting doctor in a whorl of conflicting emotions and contrasting opinions. Guiding him through this maze of human paradoxes, is his stentorian and no-nonsense housekeeper, Mrs. Connie Thompson. A stickler for discipline and with a middle name for punctuality and hygiene, Mrs. Thompson is also a remarkable cook churning out unbelievably delectable stuff for the Doctor. She also doubles up as his friend, philosopher, confidante and guide handholding him through his triumphs and travails.
Dr. Bradford’s trysts with the townspeople of Watervalley is at the core of Mr. High’s book, and makes for some highly exciting reading. The reclusive John Harris who has blockaded himself out of the town to lead an isolated existence amidst the hills turns out to be not just a connoisseur of good Scotch Whiskey but also a man of multidimensional abilities, who for some unfathomable reason just does not seem to have any lost love for his fellow ‘Watervalleyians’. Then there is the mysterious Toy Anders whose imposing physique hides within a cascade of emotions and untold stories. The doctor’s immediate neighbour, is a bewildering eleven year old Will Fox who seems to be spending an inordinate amount of time not just wearing a bicycle helmet but also perched atop a tree – with the helmet on. Watervalley also induces in Dr. Bradford the stirrings of love and pangs of passion. The bewitchingly beautiful Ms. Christine Chambers is the reason for such an emotion. Instantly falling in love with the dainty damsel, Dr. Bradford realises, much to his chagrin, that she is a tough nut to crack. The doctor would need to bring his best abilities to the table if he was to wing this particular challenge.
“More Things in Heaven and Earth” is a light, crisp and enjoyable book that makes one wish she was a companion to Dr. Bradford in his wonderful experience at Watervalley. Therein lies the victory of Jeff High himself!