A publishing event: number-one New York Times best-selling author Jan Karon returns and invites her millions of fans to join her again in Mitford.
After five hectic years of retirement from Lord's Chapel, Father Tim Kavanagh returns with his wife, Cynthia, from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors. While glad to be at home in Mitford, something is definitely missing: a pulpit. But when he's offered one, he decides he doesn't want it. Maybe he's lost his passion.
His adopted son, Dooley, wrestles with his own passion - for the beautiful and gifted Lace Turner, and his vision to become a successful country vet. Dooley's brother, Sammy, still enraged by his mother's abandonment, destroys one of Father Tim's prized possessions. And Hope Murphy, owner of Happy Endings bookstore, struggles with the potential loss of her unborn child and her hard-won business.
All this as Wanda's Feel Good Cafe opens, a romance catches fire through an Internet word game, their former mayor hatches a reelection campaign to throw the bums out, and the weekly Muse poses a probing inquiry: Does Mitford still take care of its own?
Millions of fans will applaud the chance to spend time, once more, in the often comic and utterly human presence of Jan Karon's characters. Indeed, they have never been more sympathetic, bighearted, and engaging.
©2014 Jan Karon (P)2014 Penguin Audio
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Let me start by saying that I have loved the books in the Mitford series and anticipated this book--# 10 with great excitement-- counting the days until it was released on Audible. The idea of having a new book from Jan Karon and John McDonough returning as narrator was wonderful. That said-- I had some issues and concerns that I need to address in this review.
First, it is important to note that this book actually comes after the two books in the Father Tim series rather than after book 9 in the Mitford series. It is best to listen to books 1 through 9 from Mitford and then move on to Home in Holly Springs and In the Company of Others BEFORE listening to this book --#10. There are a great deal of plot spoilers in this book about all of the other books. The Father Tim books will be ruined if you skip them now and read them later--even though they are a different series.
Further, there is a great deal of rehashing and retelling of old stories from previous books. This is more than a short, plot based reintroduction of characters and an occasional revisit to prior events. The first five chapters (at least) all seemed to be retelling--and as such--very repetitive and almost boring after a while. Most people who have read and loved these books know the characters well and don't need all the reminders and back stories.
My biggest concern was that one of the reasons many readers love the series is the wonderful positivity, wacky humor, friendliness of the community and the sense of connectedness the books embrace. In the past the characters were very kind to each other, often turning neighbors into family. With this installment there is an edginess and a feeling of discontent in the town. Mitford seems to have moved fully into the modern world and with all these changes comes all the negative draw backs as well. The tone of this installment was much darker and harsher. Everyone seems to be suffering and/or in some sort of trouble or conflict. If the reader is looking for the zest, the food, and upbeat silliness from the previous books they will be disappointed. Mitford no longer seems to be the safe haven from the worldly stresses and strains that it once was. Much of the cozy is gone.
John McDonough's narration--a favorite of mine from the past--was over the top in parts. Some voices were almost ear splitting. This evened out as the book progressed. He still is Father Tim to me--but it was a bit forced at times.
I am not suggesting that you skip the book. I just think it best to go into such a long listen (over 17 hours) with your eyes open. There are many good things about this installment--it's just different than I had expected. Listening is no longer the comforting visit and the reassuring escape from the difficulties of every day life--where all things are possible--that it once was. I am sorry to see it go.
First of all, let me say that I am setting this book aside at Chapter 5 because of the change in Mitford and the narrator's strained-diaphragmatic voice. It is not easy listening. I may resume the book at a later time and completely revise this, since other reviewers say the book improves toward the end, but for now, I very much agree with Sara's review. The early books were so charming! The therapeutic value of Mitford is that the story takes us to interpersonal relationships as they could be. As Sara said, there is now a strange edginess about the town. Father Tim seems to have beome a curmudgeon... others' over-attention to Tim's diabetes and others' efforts to dress Tim properly, cut Tim's hair and (for gosh sakes) offer Tim help with bowel purgatives make the priest appear childish and coddled. Wish I could give this 5 stars, but alas, it is 3 at best.
The great writing and imagination of Jan Karon appears to be saying a goodbye to Father Tim, Cynthia, and all the Mitford town folk in this most recent and long awaited Mitford book.
Unfortunately, Karon's "putting to bed" of the many characters of our beloved Mitford made this last book a painful dirge at times, too much like the real life we try to escape when we pick up one of her books.
Perhaps the author, who must be 70 or close to it, is bringing some of her own reality into this book.
The last chapter does hint at the possibility of a new story built around Father Tim's adopted son Dooley, but after such a poignant goodbye in this recent book, one wonders if the author will tackle such a fresh beginning?
May God stir Jan Karon's imagination again or lay that "mantle" upon new shoulders. We need the cultural sanity and spiritual hope of these books more than ever.
Lin Willett, Gladstone Oregon
the only caution that I would say is this is not for young ears. I was very disappointed with the use of cuss words. if the bad language was removed, five stars. language matters!
Now in Colbert, Washington
Getting reacquainted with Mitford characters whose journeys through life speak of hope and simpler times.
Perhaps the most gripping section dealt with the suspense surrounding Father Talbert's disappearance and subsequent rescue. The endless scenarios surrounding Father Tom's stint at Happy Endings were at times less interesting, at other times engrossing.
John McDonough is Father Tim's voice to most readers, and I was delighted to hear his voice again in this edition. However, I agree with other critics that these were not his finest character renditions, and at times the voices seemed shrill and indistinguishable.
Father Tim, of course.
Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good presented an older, harsher Father Tim back in a Mitford where conflict and criticism now seems common, and the new characters and plot lines fail to captivate the imagination as clearly as in earlier works. There are many references to earlier story lines that add little to the current work, and the wrap-up chapters so neatly bring all things to good endings that only Hallmark could make the movie!
I love this series but for the most part this one felt like a bit of a overview of the first 9 books.The characters and plot did not advance the story as much as the others have.
I haven't read a Mitford story in several years. This marvelous entry in the series was all that I remember from the past. The characters, the story lines all kept me wanting more. They seem real. You want their lives to turn out well.
As always, I was completely enraptured and engulfed in the story from beginning to end. I particularly enjoyed the continual references in this book to other experiences of Father Tim and Cynthia from past Mitford books.
These people are a part of me.
And I love the performance of John McDonough.
He gives just the right spin on each character!
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