Let the Circle Be Unbroken

Home to Holly Springs
by Jan Karon

One of my secret guilty pleasures is the Mitford series by Jan Karon. Too quaint, bordering on maudlin, pat plot lines … but, oh, do I love Father Tim, Cynthia, Dooley, and all the animal and human characters that make up life in Mitford. Interestingly, I started the books before I returned to the Church–and even though I was not what I’d call a praying girl at the time, I wasn’t at all put off by Father Tim’s rather sentimental vision of God and life in the church. For goshsakes I even read the prayers Father offered up!

Jan Karon “ended” the Mitford series with Light From Heaven … and shortly after began her new Father Tim series. My guess is that Karon wanted to be free from the confines of Mitford, and Home to Holly Springs takes Father Tim Kavenaugh out of North Carolina and back to his birthplace in Mississippi. Readers of the Mitford series know that Tim had a problematic relationship with his father, and never quite healed from the loss of both his mother and housekeeper Peggy. I suspected (quite rightly) that Karon would use this book to unbury those family secrets.

And reveal she did. The novel was again filled with God-driven “coincidences” and quirky characters, woven together with Father Tim’s childhood memories. Many of those memories were ones faithful readers had heard bits and pieces of before, but were fleshed out to fill in his childhood–and, on the whole, those stories were Karon’s strongest. My biggest disappointment were the secondary characters, of which she probably had more than necessary. Many of them seemed added simply to advance the story–unlike those strong Mitford characters, they were easily skimmed over and forgotten, save two or three. (But that was also my criticism of her later Mitford books as well.)

I read Home in a day and wouldn’t have needed (or wanted) to spend any more time on it. It was satisfying only because it was like having coffee with a long-lost friend. It was also a weepy read–partly Karon’s sentimentality, partly the love between Tim and Cynthia, and partly because I was horribly home-sick for my children. Not nearly as endearing (or enduring, I fear) than those early Mitford books, I will probably still be up for the next book in the series In the Company of Others, if only to spend some more time with Father Tim. .

Just started: Last Guard Out by Jim Albright. Purchased at Alcatraz on my recent trip to San Francisco, it is the account of one of the last guards to serve at “The Rock”.

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