September 14th isn’t a particularly significant date, but in 2014 I put it on the calendar: “DON’T forget! New Jan Karon book out!” If memory serves, it was still the dead of winter, 2013. Anyway, there was still some wait time. I counted the days…
Since the release of In the Company of Others and Home to Holly Springs, there had not been a full-length novel about Mitford, the fictional North Carolina town where Tim Kavanagh, retired Episcopalian priest, his wife, Cynthia, and their friends and neighbors live. My aunt, other family members, and friends were probably so tired of me saying, “I wish Jan Karon would write another book!” It had been a while since I’d seen anything new. I would check the website as well every now and then. Of course, there was lots to read in the meantime, but still…
Finally, it was my turn at the library. I was delighted to see how long it is–over 400 pages. Don’t be intimidated; the story moves fast. Since my aunt and I had read all the others to each other, I wanted us to read Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good together. Since my aunt doesn’t enjoy reading aloud anymore, I would be reading to her. Once we got started, she remembered the major characters. The first chapter moved along at a leisurely, down-home pace. All readers can get reacquainted with the townspeople they know and love, and meet those new to town. If you’ve read other titles in this series. you know the background on many of the characters, and you want things to work out for them.
The only problem? Somewhere along in Chapter 2, I was laughing so hard I could barely get the words out. My aunt laughed a lot, too. She was pleased that I had gotten so tickled, and she laughed at the situation.
Well, we made it through about a third of the book when I had to return it. By the time I got it back, we had moved on to mysteries, and she didn’t want to start again, so I finished alone. I started from the beginning, and enjoyed it just as much. The plot isn’t straightforward. In fact, it meanders through several story threads. Then it occurred to me: Isn’t that how everyday life is? You have your ups, downs, times when everything sucks big time, and everyday activities. You try to help people along the way if you can, cheering them on. You may be very concerned about what will happen, but you can’t always predict the outcome accurately. Faith is important to help you through challenges.
The main theme of Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good centers on the fact that Father Tim doesn’t know what to do with himself in retirement. He’s grateful for his family and friends, that he’s been able to travel, and that he has a brother he never knew he had. Countless blessings abound. But what to do now? Eventually, he is offered the chance to serve as a priest again. But does he really want it? So begins his journey. Another big mystery is the identity of the person driving through town in a limo. And, where has one of the neighbors gone? It’s a joy seeing how everything develops.
I have loved these novels ever since I discovered the first one in the series, A Light in the Window. I was hooked when a big, black dog followed Fr. Tim home. He eventually named him Barnabas. The dog would only mind him when he recited scripture at the top of his lungs. I eventually read all the books, though not in order. And that’s okay. I own many of them now.
Jan Karon gave readers a wonderful gift, when, as someone who worked in the advertising field, created on her down time the character of Father Tim. In her mind, she saw a priest walking down the road, and she wanted to know his story. And the people and the town grew from there. In 2005, my aunt and I went to her book signing at The Falls Church. Every seat was filled. She is a warm and engaging speaker. I bought a signed copy of In This Mountain, a book we were both touched by. An added bonus was meeting her as we all entered the church at the same time. She introduced herself, and we introduced ourselves. I’m so glad we got the chance to tell her how much we love all of her books.
So, once I finished the new book, I reread In the Company of Others. It’s really great on audio, too. It’s the one where Father tim and Cynthia travel yo Ireland.
Everybody needs a Mitford. By that I mean a real or imagined place where everybody’s got your back, and where there’s still hope and possibility
Ms. Karon, please don’t wait too long to write the next in the series!