Thursday, December 13, 2007

Father Tim is back!

If you don't know him, let me introduce you. Father Timothy Kavanaugh, of Mitford, North Carolina, is the main character in the Mitford Books by Jan Karon.

When we first meet him, in At Home in Mitford, he is about to turn 60. He is an Episcopalian priest in a small mountain town.

So what are the books about? They're about life. They're about the members of this small community and their trials, tribulations and triumphs, their loves, their losses, their lives. And even the food they eat. So many specific kinds of food are mentioned that the author eventually wrote a cookbook featuring the recipes for Esther Bolick's famous orange marmalade cake, Miss Sadie's apple pie, and Puny's cornbread, among others.

Early on in the first book, Father Tim meets Dooley Barlowe, a young boy who's had a hard life. Oldest of 5 siblings, his mother's alcoholism and father's desertion has led to the siblings being scattered hither and yon. Father Time agrees to take care of Dooley and enters into what eventually becomes a permanent parental relationship with this precious and spunky young person. A big part of the series revolves around the search for the other siblings, as well as a romance for Father Tim. Many lives are changed and we learn that life is not boring in this small town.

But the series ended with A Light from Heaven. There was a feeling of closure, and also of life still going on. You closed the book and you didn't want to say good-bye. Fortunately, the Mitford books are of the type that you can enjoy re-reading them, two or even three or four times.

I knew there was a second series planned called The Father Tim novels, but I thought it was going to be about his childhood. And it is, but the adult Father Tim we all know and love is in there, too. I'm only about one-quarter of the way through Home to Holly Springs, but I am very much enjoying the way we see Father Tim in the present alongside flashbacks to his childhood, growing up in a small Mississippi town called Holly Springs.

These books are in your library. If you haven't read them, you will enjoy them. I think there is something for everyone, men, women, those who love mystery (there's a bit of mystery and suspense sprinkled in), those who love romance, those who love books with great characters that are true to life.

And if you have read them, or are looking for a gift for someone who is a fan of these series, check out the cookbook mentioned above, or A Mitford Bedside Companion or A Continual Feast, Father Tim's notebook where he jots down quotes he finds meaningful. And there are even some children's books by the same author, picture books with beautiful illustrations, including at least one about Violet the cat. Whichever you choose, you're sure to enjoy your stay in Mitford.

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