When most people think about a trip to the doctor, they envision a sterile office where they’ll be examined by a near-stranger. But not Jim Reed’s patients in his rural Illinois hometown of Farmington  ( pop. 2,500). They knew they’d be meeting with someone who’d known them—and their family, friends and neighbors—for more than fifty years.

In the process of amassing nearly a million patient visits, Dr. Reed has seen and done it all. In 1954 he treated a one-hundred-year-old lady who’d seen Abe Lincoln give a speech. Five decades later, he treated an astronaut’s young daughter. And in between, he saw and conquered problems other doctors only imagine—like performing life-saving surgery in a farm field using only a pocket knife, and unknowingly becoming involved with a gang of bank robbers.

More than a fascinating  tale of an unusually skilled and compassionate physician, “Healer” chronicles Dr. Reed’s youth in a family with thirteen children during the Great Depression, as well as the rich relationships between the Reed family and the residents of one American small town over the second half of the 20th century.

Drawing upon remarkable stories from Dr. Reed and in-depth interviews with members of six families treated for six generations, the author—Dr. Reed’s  younger brother Rudy—has  captured the essence of a revered dying breed: a totally dedicated country doctor.