12/02/2006

Light from Heaven (by Jan Karon)


This is the ninth and last of Jan Karon's 'Mitford' series about the American Episcopal priest Father Tim and his delightful wife Cynthia. In this novel, Tim and Cynthia spend a year at their friends' farm, Meadowgate, while their friends are away. It's not far from Mitford, so Tim (and we, the readers!) manage to keep up with news of old friends. But Tim also gets asked to take on a new job: to re-start a regular service at a small church in the mountains. There he meets the wonderful Agnes - an elderly and robust lady who gave many years of her life to the mission field. Having been aquainted with two such ladies myself, I found her believable and a great asset to the novel.

A few reader reviews on Amazon objected to the new characters who were introduced in this story. I thought it was a great idea to start some new threads; otherwise the book would have been too much like the previous ones. Yes, there were some ongoing plot-lines which were nicely tied up in this book, but if that had been all, it would have felt rather slow and tedious. As it was, Tim's new parish and parishioners provided a nice contrast to his older friends in Mitford.


Of course there's a Christian theme running through the book, mostly low-key although there are a few pages of Scripture explanations and mention of the 'Sinners' prayer'. Although a Christian myself, I often find such things rather cringeworthy in novels, and indeed I did find myself skimming a bit when these cropped up. But they're mostly well-written and fit well with the story and characters so they don't feel too out-of-place. It would be quite possible to skip those passages although an understanding of what they are about probably adds to the enjoyment of the novel in general.

I enjoyed reading this in its rightful place in the series, directly after reading all the others. But I think it probably could have been read as a novel on its own, since there were the fresh characters. All in all, I thought it an excellent ending to the series.

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