In this entertaining memoir, Ken Brigham looks back at some of the places and events, and unexpected opportunities that played a role in his life and career as a prominent medical doctor. He refers to his long and often winding journey as free dancing since he doesn’t feel that his life, up until this point, has had a typically prescribed beginning, middle, and end. Instead, he sees it more as a collection of exciting intersections, crossroads, and events that led to something unplanned, at times spontaneous, and from what I read, remarkable and fulfilling.
His early life was spent on a farm outside Nashville, Tennessee, which he vividly recalls. While in high school and shortly after, he dabbled in the music scene performing in a band called the Crescendos. But it was the medical profession that was his true calling. One of the unexpected opportunities that may have changed his life path was being accepted as a medical student at Vanderbilt University. His interest in lung diseases took him around the world and gave him the chance to help find solutions to pressing medical issues. He recalls his time in Calcutta, where he helped cholera patients and discovered a teeming city like nothing he’d known before. He was fortunate to work on other research projects, which allowed him to travel and experience life around the world. But he also spent time as a patient as well on the two occasions he had to fight cancer. The second time he was primarily alone in a hospital during the coronavirus outbreak. Despite these setbacks, his life has been full of unpredictable events, exciting opportunities, and fascinating people, all of which he recounts throughout Free Dancing.
Mr. Brigham is a talented storyteller, and after reading this, I’m pretty sure that he could make even the most mundane events of his life seem exciting and entertaining. I enjoyed hearing about his time in academia and the impact he and others have had in the medical field. But most of all, I appreciated his great outlook on life and his view, acquired from his wife Arlene, that we are here to love and be loved. And while the book ends with lessons that Mr. Brigham has learned while studying the human condition, such as the importance of being kind or paying attention to one’s surrounding in order to enjoy more of life. I think anyone who reads this will hope that he has plenty of time to study and write some more of his witty, humorous, and timely musings on the subject.
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