Friday, September 20, 2013

The Mitford Series

Sometimes, when the world weighs you down, you need to go back to a place where there is love and warmth and joy, even in the midst of sadness and troubling life events.  Sometimes you need to visit a little town where everyone knows your name, where you can go get a cup of coffee at the local grill and watch the world go by.

And sometimes, you can find that place in a book.  Or a book series. 

At Home in Mitford is the first of a series of books by Jan Karon.  The series centers on the character of Father Tim, an Episcopalian priest in a little town in North Carolina called Mitford.  As the series opens, Father Tim is just getting along in his little parish, ministering to the people, making meatloaf, and living a fairly uneventful life.  Enter in a new neighbor that keeps popping through the hedge, a teenage  boy who gets literally dropped on his doorstep, a diabetes diagnosis, and an enormous black lab that only responds in obedience when Father Tim shouts Scripture at it.  From there nine full novels are written chronicling the adventures of Father Tim, Cynthia, Miss Sadie, Dooley, and all the lovable (and some not-so-lovable!) characters of this little mountain village. 

These stories are wonderful.  They are a soothing balm.  They're like going out for coffee with an old friend when I pick them up.  I've read them so many times that I can pick any of the nine books up, flip open to any page, and know exactly what's going on.  And yet they never grow old or stale.  Jan Karon has created a beautiful little world of people that you can't help but love and want to spend time with. 

One of the things I like best is that not everything always goes perfectly for these characters.   Believe me, they are fun, and hilarity abounds.  You'll laugh till tears run down your face sometimes. These books are heart-warming, but they aren't cheesy or unrealistic.  Real life happens.  People die, abuse occurs, betrayal, pain, all the things that happen to people.  There is a creek community nearby the village where poverty reigns, and the people of the town - in particular Father Tim - are forced to come to terms with what their response will be.  But even through the dark times, they persevere together, leaning on friendships, family, and ultimately faith to get them through. 

Yes, faith is a key component to these books.  Scripture is quoted regularly, and Father Time ministers to anyone who comes across his path.  However, unlike much of Christian fiction, these books are extraordinarily well written.  Ms. Karon does not try to beat her readers over the head with the Gospel.  Nor are these books written with any kind of hidden agenda.  She simply creates a place and a people for whom their belief in Christ is at the heart of how they live their lives.  It's really an exquisite job on weaving faith and story together.  She is writing the tale of a group of people, and that group of people happen to have relationships with God, and therefore it is evident in their life.  It's quite refreshing and very uplifiting. 

And you know how I love a series...there are NINE BOOKS!  Plus a spin-off series involving more stories about Father Tim and Cynthia outside of their life in Mitford.  Enough to keep you reading for weeks and months!

Check out At Home in Mitford and feel like you are coming home again.  It's a journey you won't regret. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars...for the whole series.  There isn't a bum one in the lot!

And my TBR has changed quite a bit because I had to take books back to the library before I had to take out a loan to pay my fines.  So new list:

What I'm Reading Now: The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George
Top 5 TBR:
1. Crazy Love by Francis Chan
2. Forgotten God by Francis Chan (I really need to finish these Chan books, they are fabulous)
3. Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert (One of those " BY GOLLY I AM GOING TO FINISH THIS" books)
4. Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge, once I get a copy!  So excited for a new Eldredge book!
5. Always the Wedding Planner, Never the Bride by Sandra Bricker (once I feel like I can show my face at the library again...)

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