This book has had a somewhat unsettling effect. It made me realise that my previous understanding of Still was, at best, two dimensional. The familiar quotes and the stock one liners give little insight into the man, or his developing understanding of the nature of health and disease. This is hugely important, as "Osteopathy" is simply the label used to describe that developing understanding. Not only do the usual snippets, seen out of context, provide little understanding, they provide ample opportunity for misunderstanding and misrepresentation. This is clearly something that Still suffered during his lifetime, and something that osteopathy suffers now, even among those of us who strive to practice it.
In producing this work John Lewis has delved deep, following Stills advice to "Dig on"; the book is the culmination of a fifteen year project, including a four year stint in Kirksville. To get as true a picture as possible, the author limited his sources to Still, his family and others who had direct contact with Still, much aided by access to archive material, including Stills notes.
The result is the most important book on osteopathy I have ever read.
At a time when the profession is floundering from a lack of identity and suffering significant pressure to become something that it is not, the material conveyed in this book is a much needed lifeline. A lifeline that reconnects us with our origin and purpose, to the very source of what we profess to do and to be. The writing is compelling, informative and inspirational in equal measure. I found myself moved to excitement, anger, sadness and elation.
The book is very nicely produced (I appreciated the feel and smell of a real book) and is illustrated with more than thirty photographs, many of which I had never seen before. Additionally there are several maps, to help the reader orient themselves in the locations of the story.
I feel that if all prospective students read this book, the colleges would be overflowing, full of people who really wanted to be osteopaths. I fear however that, like me, many would find that their education barely "dipped their toes" into great depth of osteopathy as Still conceived it. It would also serve us all well, if this book were read by everyone working for the GOsC and the BOA.
I urge all who care about osteopathy to read this book. Whether you are a prospective student, a student, or a veteran practitioner, I believe the book will repay your investment in time and money many times over. You see "unsettling" is not always a negative experience, it can be the result of being uplifted from your previous state. I'm already rereading this book now.