BOOK REVIEW: Poke, A Community Acupuncturist’s Tale

Like many people, the pandemic inspired me to start writing a book.  Our colleague, Dr. Steve Knobler from North Seattle Community Acupuncture actually published a book: Poke, A Community Acupuncturist’s Tale.

I searched the internet for other works of fiction about acupuncture and I’ve come up dry.  This means that Steve has invented a genre.

The story is centered around Ray Zywicky, Doctor of Acupuncture, who gives up on his private insurance-based acupuncture practice.  Ray’s decision comes after losing his father to cancer on the same day that the insurance company denies coverage of an experimental treatment. He moves from Seattle to a smaller town, Bibelot, Washington, and sets up his new Community Acupuncture Clinic above his uncle’s funeral home.  Yes, a Community Acupuncture Clinic above a funeral home.

Poked is relatable for CA punks but with some fun artistic liberties. After all, this book is fiction.  Ray reaches out to his fellow CA punks for guidance on how to set up his new clinic. His acu-punk colleagues entertain with some pretty fantastic business plans which include therapy cats or high Italian fashion and fabulous shoe swapping. This reminds me of some actual conversations that I’ve had on and offline with fellow acu-punks over the years. If reality and capitalism were not obstacles, I would love to work at a clinic connected to a laundry mat.  Patients could drop off dirty laundry, take a needle nap, and wake up to a basket of freshly clean and folded clothes.  I would call this clinic “The Pin Cycle.”

Ray, like all of us, deals with the ongoing challenge of getting butts in chairs.  When the town paper sends over a photographer, Ray and his receptionist, Gertrude, have to think fast about how to fill an empty clinic.  No spoilers, but let’s just say this solution is perfect…for fiction. 

The book moves quickly with lots of fast-paced dialogue between Ray, Gertrude, and Ray’s uncle Mel, the town mortician.  It showcases the kind of “dad jokes” that might make me groan if I didn’t need to laugh right now.

Dry needling comes up in a conversation between Ray and a new patient with phantom limb pain.  I am disappointed that Steve missed the opportunity to talk about dry needling as an introduction to acupuncture.  Many patients seek out acupuncture after trying dry needling first.  Why would acupuncturists think this is bad?  Referrals for Physical Therapists are limited and their co-pays are high.  This leaves a group of patients looking for more acupuncture, many of who end up in Community clinics if there is one nearby.

The word “Doctor” comes up a lot in Poked, which I couldn’t relate to since I am a Licensed Acupuncturist, not a Doctor of Acupuncture.  Dr. Zywicky shares with patients his findings in their pulses and tongues. I haven’t done this since my student clinic days because it leads to longer conversations than CA allows for.  I am glad that Ray is not telling patients to stop drinking coffee or that they should take it easy after their treatment as if they just had minor surgery. 

I am delighted that Steve wrote and published Poked.  I am looking forward to the sequels. Yes, there will be sequels.  And I hope that he inspires more Community Acupuncture fiction. POCA is full of talented writers who can expand on Steve Knobler’s newly invented genre. 
Maybe CA Sci-Fi? CA Futuristic Dystopia? CA Comic Books?  CA Romance?  FYI, Harlequin Romance is looking for writers to submit new stories, which might make for an interesting side gig.

Congratulations on your book, Steve, and thank you for writing it.

It can be downloaded on a variety of platforms, or you can order it in paperback.

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  1. Thanks so much for your great review, Roppy. Hugely appreciated. When our clinic was closed, earlier this year, I had nowhere to go but the dining room table. So I knocked out the book I’d been wanting to write for years – something fun, light-hearted, and educational, hoping to spread the good word about community acupuncture. Thankfully, it’s been well received and I’m working on the next book already. Like you, I hope this inspires others to add to this new genre. Best wishes to us all. May community acupuncture rise again, like a phoenix, to own the day. – Steve

  2. Nice story, Roppy. I could really feel the character tension throughout. Love how you describe the food, the house, and Jack. Uggh! Sorry this was a true story. He sounds like such a self-absorbed ass. Thanks for sharing.