Posts Tagged With: At Home in Mitford

I Want to Meet Jan Karon

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I am a fan.  I hope not a crazy one, but I do have favorite celebrities that I follow and admire. As often as not, they are authors, not actors (though I have my preferences in that category, too).

Jan Karon is at the tippy top of my list.  She began writing her Mitford novels later in life, and it shows – they run over with her wisdom, humor, and pain.

I thought she had wrapped up the stories, but miracles do still happen and Ms. Karon began to write again in 2014 (Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good).

For you Mitford fans out there, you will understand the great joy I experienced knowing that I would finally learn what happened to Dooley and Lacy.  They deserve their own story and so, it was with intense delight, that I breezed through the most recent Mitford novel, published in 2015, entitled Come Rain or Come Shine in which they are the key characters. Good old Father Tim is still front and center, like a well-loved grandfather.  Cynthia still sparkles, but Dooley and Lacey “take the cake”.

I offer no plot description.  I can’t breathe a word more in case I would spoil it for you.  Just read it.  Catch up with the series first, of course.  I order you to do so.

Summer is coming and these books are perfectly designed for the open reading venues of beaches, hammocks, and lakeside docks.

Karon’s Mitford novels also got me through some hard times.    I have inhaled five in a row this Spring after a  complicated surgery and a long rehabilitation. They are the best medicine I know for sorrow, disillusionment, or illness.

Enjoy! Happy Reading!

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Categories: Chick lit, Christian Fiction, Humorous, Inspiration, Read Aloud, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good: Jan Karon Invites us to Return to Mitford

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person: having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them out.  Just as they are – chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” Geo. Eliot 1819-1880

Back in March 2014 I blogged again on author Jan Karon, recommending the Mitford companion book Patches of Godlight. Here I reprint those words of my post about the Mitford series that I now cheerfully “eat”:

“Jan Karon has finished writing about Mitford, so for those of us who have come to the end of the novels, this volume and the Mitford Bedside Companion help us manage our feelings of loss.” (https://pineneedlesandpapertrails.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/patches-of-godlight-companion-book-to-jan-karons-mitford-years-series/)

With great jubilation I now type the following: Ms. Karon wrote another novel in the Mitford series, published on September 2, entitled Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good. Promoted as the tenth Mitford novel, it comes in chronological order as the 13th about Father Tim Kavanaugh. (See publication list below.)

If I knew the author personally I would bring her a bouquet of two dozen roses of her favorite hue and kneel down to kiss her hand after laying the flowers across her arms. Since I am simply one of her millions of fans, I humbly offer this glowing book recommendation in lieu of flowers to show her my gratitude for returning to Mitford to give us another wonderful story.

Reprinted with permission Photo Credit: Candace Freeland

Reprinted with permission
Photo Credit: Candace Freeland

2005 was the year the penultimate Mitford novel was published (Light from Heaven), yet Ms. Karon masterfully and seamlessly brings Father Timothy Kavanaugh and his wife, Cynthia, back, in place and time, to the small town of Mitford, North Carolina in Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good immediately after their exhausting travels in Ireland (In the Company of Others, pub. 2011)

Andrea Larson, a goodreads.com reviewer and a Readers’ Advisor at a public library in suburban Chicago, summarized the main theme and plot lines of the newest novel:

“This may be one of my favorite book titles ever. After all, isn’t it what we all wish for? And if you’re a Father Tim fan, you’ll know that he has, in fact, gotten this wish. He’s finally back in Mitford, the idyllic North Carolina mountain town that is the scene of the first nine books in the series, with his lovely wife Cynthia and the eccentric cast of characters we’ve come to know so well. But although he’s back at home, Father Tim’s life is not the same. He’s no longer the rector of Lord’s Chapel, the local Episcopal church, and he must now figure out how he wants to spend his time in retirement. Without his calling, he’s a bit at sea, but as always, somehow events conspire to help him find his way.

Karon has an incredible gift for illuminating the sacred in the everyday, and she does it with her usual brilliance in this book. Ordinary life becomes something greater. Meaningful quotes appear on the windows of the town bookstore. A visit to the Children’s Hospital precipitates a turnaround in the delinquent behavior of one of Father Tim’s teenage charges. A wayward priest earns forgiveness from his flock. Karon’s trademark gentle humor is also ever-present – one recurring theme is the opening of a new spray-tan machine at Fancy Skinner’s beauty salon, which goes over like gangbusters, much to Father Tim’s dismay.”

Father Tim manages to profoundly influence the lives of friends and relatives in the community. However, this main character, albeit central, is not like some Superman, saving the day all by himself, with superhuman strength. The entire community of Mitford struggles to answer the question put so baldly by intrepid journalist Vanita Bentley of the local Mitford Muse newspaper: “Does Mitford Still Take Care of Its Own?” The 511-page novel wrestles with that question because people are in trouble and the town is neglected.

Echoes of this important query reverberate within me: Do I care about others? Is my community intact, thriving, and growing? Am I a contributor to this growth?

“Hope springs eternal” in Jan Karon’s novels, yet not because life is idyllic. Do you realize how intense are the themes the author weaves through the stories set in the “sweet small town” of Mitford? (Marital infidelity, alcoholism, clinical depression, schizophrenia, sex addiction, cancer, and child abuse.) And yet, we readers do not finish the book and close the cover despairing. Why not?

Because, like Victor Hugo, Jan Karon subtly yet steadily tells us, through each situation in Mitford, that God is at work, and  often through human intermediaries: “Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.” (Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables)

People can, and will, rise to new heights of sacrifice to help others. Do you believe this? I do. I am strengthened by Ms. Karon’s books to do my part and to have faith that God is doing His with great effectiveness and love.

Here is my favorite blog comment from my original post on Mitford https://pineneedlesandpapertrails.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/have-you-been-home-lately-at-home-in-mitford-by-jan-karon/: “Jan Karon is one of my favorites. She can walk you into another life from the first word on the page. I loved each person that she introduced to me on our journeys together, and cringed at the mishaps and felt embarrassment when they did. Ms Karon has the magic. Father Tim has my devotion. I walk away from each visit with Father Tim with a sermon in my heart”. http://blessedx5ks.wordpress.com

PRIZE FOR BEST COMMENT: I will send a free copy of the 20th Anniversary edition of At Home in Mitford to whoever writes the best comment on this post.

The Mitford series novels in order of publication: At Home in Mitford (1994), A Light in the Window (1995), These High, Green Hills (1996), Out to Canaan (1997), A New Song (1999), A Common Life (2001), In This Mountain (2002), Shepherds Abiding (2003), Light From Heaven (2005), Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (2014)

The Father Tim novels: Home to Holly Springs (2008), In the Company of Others (2011)

Author’s website: http://www.mitfordbooks.com

Categories: Chick lit, Humorous, Inspiration, Romantic Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Patches of Godlight: Companion Book to Jan Karon’s Mitford Years Series

Fictional Mitford

I love words. I like to write them; I like to say them, but I am much more enamored of the brilliant words of others and am therefore happy to recommend a book by bestselling author Jan Karon that is chock-full of lovely words: Patches of Godlight Father Tim’s Favorite Quotes was published in 2001 by Penguin Putnam as a companion book to the bestselling Mitford Years series which I wrote about in my post entitled: “Have You Been Home Lately: At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon”.https://pineneedlesandpapertrails.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/have-you-been-home-lately-at-home-in-mitford-by-jan-karon/

Karon wrote her series to “give readers an extended family, and to applaud the extraordinary beauty of ordinary lives.” Father Timothy Anthony Kavanagh, the central character in Jan Karon’s nine novels is an Episcopal priest in his sixties whose love for every soul extends far beyond the boundaries of his small North Carolina parish. Delightfully, Father Tim is intelligent and well read; within each novel his speech flows with literary quotations and references.  Now these quotations are available in one volume that whimsically creates a facsimile of Father’s Tim’s notebook written in his own hand, with typewritten notes taped askew every so often.

Patches of Godlight offers a rich word feast from a variety of thinkers, philosophers, and poets:

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person: having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them out.  Just as they are – chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.” Geo. Eliot 1819-1880

“We – or at least I – shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest.  At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have “tasted and seen.” Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy.  These pure and spontaneous pleasures are “patches of godlight” in the woods of experience.”  C.S. Lewis from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer.

Jan Karon has finished writing about Mitford, so for those of us who have come to the end of the novels, this volume and the Mitford Bedside Companion help us manage our feelings of loss.  Karon advises us to create our own Mitfords: “People say to me quite plaintively, ‘Oh, how I wish Mitford could be real.’ Well, Mitford can be real. Mitford is real, but we have to do our part. Mitford doesn’t just come to us like some cute little idyllic, cozy Kincaid greeting card. We have to pitch in. We have to keep our eyes and ears and hearts open to others. We have to be willing to put ourselves out there. It doesn’t all come to us. We have to go out to it. If we go out to greet it, we will find it. Do something for somebody else. Give somebody a hug, and do it with a full heart. Listen to the humor. Watch and observe the humor in other people’s lives and in your own. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Just get out there and wade in up to your neck into that sea of humanity, which is so needy. Smile at somebody for goodness sake!” excerpted from an interview with cbn.com http://www.cbn.com/entertainment/Books/elliott_JanKaron.aspx

I love this volume of beautiful words, but I feel the need to create my own treasury of quotations so that I will not lose those that touch my mind and soul.  How do you preserve your treasured words?

The Mitford series novels in order of publication: At Home in Mitford (1994), A Light in the Window (1995), These High, Green Hills (1996), Out to Canaan (1997), A New Song (1999), A Common Life (2001), In This Mountain (2002), Shepherds Abiding (2003), Light From Heaven (2005).  The Father Tim novels: Home to Holly Springs (2008), In the Company of Others (2011)

Categories: Chick lit, Humorous, Inspiration, Read Aloud | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Have You Been Home Lately? – At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon

at-home-in-mitfordAlmost twenty years ago, successful advertising executive, Jan Karon left behind her fast-paced life in the city and moved to Blowing Rock, North Carolina to pursue her childhood passion of writing.  What she created is a contemporary classic. The Mitford Series is made up of ten novels written in a vignette format that intertwine the stories of finely-drawn characters who inhabit the fictional mountainous town of Mitford, North Carolina. The first in the series, At Home in Mitford, became a new York Times bestseller the same year my first child was born.  I waited impatiently for each new novel’s publication and was always rewarded with another charming, humorous installment.

Father Timothy Kavanagh, the central character in the beloved Mitford series, epitomizes the Mitford town motto – “We take care of our own.”  His parish is wider than the Lord’s Chapel where he is the Episcopalian rector.  His heart reaches out to anyone he encounters, proven by his daily waking prayer: “Lord, make me a blessing to someone today. Through Christ our Lord, Amen”.   Delightfully, Father Tim is also intelligent and well-read; his speech flows with literary quotations and references.

The world of Mitford may be charming, but it is not idyllic.  Difficulties afflict Father Tim: loneliness, physical disease, doubt, and clinical depression; yet a message of hope is woven throughout each novel which reflects the author’s worldview. Because he loves us, God works things together for our good.  The personal  hardship experienced by author Jan Karon creates a depth to the stories: “There was a lot of brokenness in my family,” she observes. “Writing is a way of processing our lives. And it can be a way of healing.” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis-St. Paul).  Karon married young and was divorced soon after, raising her daughter for many years as a single parent. Karon describes herself as having been “. . . driven to the wall by the circumstances and tragedy of life” which led her to embrace Christianity (Christianity Today’s website). Another good interview on Jan Karon’s life and faith journey can be found here: http://aredeemedlife.wordpress.com/interviews/on-the-road-with-jan-karon/

Father Tim is joined by a cast of endearing characters that populate Mitford and its surroundings. Our hearts are irresistibly drawn to Dooley, the lovable, yet unloved young boy who comes to Father Tim’s back door looking for a place to “take a dump”.  (Yes, that is what the author means!) Endearing toothless Uncle Bill – long-suffering husband of a mentally ill wife, Miss Sadie Baxter – sweet-tempered, aging spinster, Percy Mosely – owner of the Main Street Grill, all these characters are seen through the eyes of Father Tim.  “He sees these diamonds in the rough with compassionate love. Without fail, he lives out the kind of love that sees the potential of others and never gives up on them,” states my friend Joy – an avid Mitford fan.

The romance in the series captivates readers.  Doris, my best friend from childhood, told me, “I am amazed that Father Tim, a bachelor at the age of 60, would take a chance at loving someone romantically.  In my mind he was very brave to be open to this new life.” Although Karon offers a variety of romantic intrigues throughout the series, Father Tim and Cynthia Coppersmith steal the romantic spotlight at their advanced ages, which is fairly unique in modern fiction.

I have finished all ten novels and found comfort, hope, and a lifting of my heart. The only complaints over the years from friends who didn’t like the series include “too sweet” and “too slow”.  If you have already read the books, please comment about your experience in Mitford. As Jan Karon says on her website: “My character driven work seeks to give readers a large extended family they can call their own.”

The Mitford Years: ten novels in order of publication:

At Home in Mitford (1994)

A Light in the Window (1995)

These High, Green Hills (1996)

Out to Canaan (1997)

A New Song (1999)

A Common Life (2001)

In This Mountain (2002)

Shepherds Abiding (2003)

Light From Heaven (2005)

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (2014)

Jan Karon continued Father Tim’s story in his later years in settings beyond Mitford in the Father Tim novels: Home to Holly Springs, and In the Company of Others.  More information at http://www.mitfordbooks.com.  My favorite comment by a pineneedlesandpapertrails reader is Mimiswardrobe@wordpress.com: “I love the Mitford books, and I’m delighted to see that I missed the last one so I still have a new one to enjoy!  Yes, they are slow, but like many slow rivers, they run deep!  Rapids may be exciting, but they don’t give you much chance for introspection.  What is wonderful about Jan Karon’s books is that her characters seem so real that reading one of her stories makes us feel like we’ve been to Mitford on vacation.”

Categories: Chick lit, Classics, Humorous, Inspiration, Romantic Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

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