The newest book in the Mitford series by Jan Karon, “Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good,” is a wonderful addition to the series. I have read all the Jan Karon books as soon as I could get them, which means that I usually buy them for my mom and when she is reading them, she passes them on to me. I love all the Mitford Years series books with Father Tim and Cynthia and all the colorful people who inhabit Mitford. I love how the characters develop and grow through the series. I love Jan Karon’s fairly realistic portrayal of Father Tim as an Episcopal priest in a small town.
But I was disappointed by her recent books. The Father Tim books, “Home to Holly Springs” and “In the Company of Others” were good, but felt like Karon was inventing devices to write about a beloved character instead of naturally developing the storyline. Then the other books, the Christmas stories, cookbooks, and collections of quotes were just ways for Karon to keep the income flowing. People bought them because they loved Mitford, not because they were worthwhile stories.
“Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good” returns Father Tim and Cynthia squarely to the big and little concerns of the people of Mitford. This is where the story shines. Father Tim is struggling with retirement, even after being retired for five years. So he finds his parish in other places and involves himself in the lives of the people he loves so deeply, being voted Mitford’s Leading Citizen along the way.
One of the things I really like about this book is that it does not have contrived or highly dramatic moments. It is life. Life in the good and bad, lived with the kinds of struggles we all face day to day. Several characters lives are in danger, but not Father Tim or Cynthia. There are health struggles, personal growth, and life in a small town with the characters that all of us who love people can recognize. Woven throughout the book is the deep strand of faith, binding all together and calling them to God. Karon manages to make this faith a natural part of Father Tim’s story, so it doesn’t feel preachy, just a natural outgrowth of who he is and the deep certainty that there is a God who loves each of us deeply.
Father Tim’s goal in retirement becomes clear: to mend that which is broken, lifting it up to the One who can heal anything. His example, even if he is a fictional character, is an inspiration to me. In retirement we can hide out in our safe places, or we can challenge ourselves and others by trying new things and being involved in the lives of the people around us.
The way the book ended, it seems as if this will be the last book with Father Tim as the central character. Dooley will be taking over as the leading character in books about Mitford although I’m sure Father Tim will appear often. Jan Karon’s next Mitford book will be coming out in September and it jumps ahead some years to Dooley completing his veterinary training and setting up a practice in Mitford. I will look forward to reading it, although Dooley will certainly have big shoes to fill!
The Mitford Series has been an enjoyment and a blessing in my life over the last ten years. Father Tim is a fine example of a man who lives out his faith and tries to bring Christ’s light to his corner of the world. “Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good” is a wonderful addition to his story.