23/01/2017

Come Rain or Come Shine (by Jan Karon)

It’s about sixteen years since I was first introduced to Jan Karon’s wonderful ‘Mitford’ series about a small town in America, and its elderly Episcopalian priest Father Tim Kavanagh. I started collecting the books, and was quite sad when the author stated that her ninth book was the last in the series; then delighted that she began a slightly different set of books featuring Father Tim himself, now retired.

After two of those books, however, the series reverted to Mitford, and I thoroughly enjoyed the twelfth book, ‘Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good’ which I read about six months ago. When the thirteenth book came out in paperback I put it on my wish-list and was delighted to be given it for Christmas.

‘Come Rain or Come Shine’, as I knew already, was focussed on the wedding of Father Tim’s adopted son Dooley and the doctor’s adopted daughter Lace. The two had rather a cat-and-dog relationship from their early teens, but it became increasingly clear that they were destined for each other, so I was looking forward very much to reading about their wedding.

This isn’t a book for anyone who hasn’t read at least a few of the earlier Mitford books, as it builds on characters and situations from previous books. There’s a large cast of people and I didn’t remember all of them; to someone new to the series it would be overwhelming. However for those who have long-standing affection for Tim and his wife Cynthia and there many friends and acquaintances, this is a wonderful book, pulling together many threads and re-uniting various folk, as is inevitable at a wedding.

The early part of the book focuses on preparations, with a growing sense of urgency as the date comes closer. Dooley and Lace thought they had opted for a simple, small wedding but the number of things to do seems to increase daily. Lace hasn’t yet found a dress, and each day becomes more worried. She’s creating something as a wedding present for Dooley; we don’t know what it is until it’s revealed right before the wedding, but it’s also creating stress.

Dooley, meanwhile, is settling in as the resident vet, after his recent qualification, and there’s a new and potentially dangerous bull called Choo-choo. There are secrets, and surprises, and unexpected guests… and then the ceremony itself, spelled out in a lot of detail, with its own stresses and complications.

I found it a little confusing at first that the story is narrated from several different viewpoints, not just that of Father Tim. We read some sections from Dooley’s point of view, some from Lace’s, and some from other characters; it’s not always obvious who is the viewpoint character, but eventually I realised that it didn’t matter. And I loved the layout of the book, which includes both the wedding invitation and the order of service in the relevant places.

I don’t know what it is about this series that prompts such a feeling of well-being; the scenarios and people are not like anyone or any place I’ve come across before, yet reading or re-reading one of the books feels like coming home myself. Perhaps Heaven is a little like Mitford.

A lot of threads are tied up (although a few are left open) and when I reached the end I wondered if this might be the last Mitford book; if so, I thought, it ended on a strong and positive note. So I was very pleased to read that Jan Karon has already started another book in the series, set a few months after this one.

Definitely recommended to fans of the series. Keep a tissue or two to hand...

Review by copyright 2017 Sue's Book Reviews

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