At Home in Mitford (by Jan Karon)

What a lovely book this is! I was given it for Christmas six years ago, and have gradually acquired and read most of the others in Jan Karon's 'Mitford' series over the years. For Christmas 2005 I was given the final Mitford book and decided to re-read the others first.

The main character is the delightful and unassuming Father Tim, rector of a small village church in the USA. Much of the book features his day-to-day life running the parish, mixing with parishioners, praying for the sick, helping people sort out their problems.

As the book begins he's feeling a bit run-down and elderly (he celebrates his 60th birthday) but there is plenty to keep him active: a lively dog who follows him around, a young boy whose mother is an alcoholic, an attractive (if slightly scatty) next-door neighbour, and the unexpected find of some jewels, presumed stolen.

The main enjoyment of this novel is in the characterisation, particularly that of Father Tim. We see everything from his viewpoint, and the author skilfully enables us to sympathise and empathise with him in all the problems he deals with.

God is very real in a down-to-earth way in this book, with two or three people being led to Christ in a gentle way. There's no direct evangelism or Bible-thumping, but an ongoing love of God runs through the storylines. The subplots are all cleverly interwoven, and although the number of characters is fairly high, I found that I quickly felt I knew at least the main ones.

All in all, 'At Home in Mitford' is a lovely book. It's probably my favourite in the entire series, but that could be because it's the first one I ever read. There are sections that made me smile on re-reading it this week, and a couple of places that brought tears to my eyes. Highly recommended.

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