Thursday, January 14, 2016

Come Rain, Come Shine: A Mitfored Novel by Jan Karon

Readers of the Mitford series of books by Jan Karon have followed Father Tim through his late-in-life marriage, adoption of a teenage son, and his many adventures which seem to always include a reason to bake a Southern ham.  I did not start this series until several books had been published, and when I did start, I liked that I could quickly go from one book to another without that pesky interlude waiting for the next book to be published.  Eventually I hit that wall where I had read everything Karon had written and then I had to wait patiently like her other fans for a new book.  Then when Father Tim retired in the series, I fell away as a reader.  Eventually I did catch up and placed a hold for the newest book COME RAIN, COME SHINE with the library system before the book even published!  I was delighted to receive a copy right at the start of 2016.  Great reading for the new year.

COME RAIN, COME SHINE is a fast four year advance from the end of her last book SOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD.  Adopted son Dooley has just finished veterinary school and will be taking over the country practice where he has spent so many hours since a teenager.  He and longtime girlfriend Lace Harper (adopted daughter of the town's doctor) are finally ready to tie the knot.  Lace and Dooley have decided that it will be a simple wedding at the farm/clinic, a pot luck actually, with only 50 guests.  Father Tim and wife Cynthia have moved temporarily to the country to prepare for the wedding, and  in the midst of sowing new grass seed, weeding, and cleaning, everyone begins to wonder how a "simple" wedding suddenly got so complicated.  And Lace, set on spending no more than $100 on a dress, can't find anything to wear.  Like all the other Mitford novels, miracles come in small, unexpected ways, often the faces and actions of everyday family and neighbors.

Karon's writing style is unique; she skips from character to character without any transitions, much as if a video camera was catching short vignettes across the neighborhood.  The pronouns "he" and "she" are used without any further clarification and the reader must decipher who is doing what, where, and when.  Often new information is inserted without a clear explanation and I would be wondering if I had missed something by reading too fast or inattentively.  Then a page or two later, the whole incident would be explained more fully.  Readers had just been exposed to the happening first, like an unexpected surprise.  Facts and rationale would come later.  Like all the Mitford novels, there are lessons in forgiveness, kindness, humility, and other virtures.  And of course, there are surprises. I wish I could share the best ones in this novel, but that would not be right. No spoilers allowed.  If you've read any of the other Karon books, get this latest one.  I don't know if the series will end now with Dooley's marriage or not. If it does, it is a great ending.  But I hope it doesn't end yet; this wedding has left some great leads for further books.  And fellow readers, if you have never started this series, you are so lucky.  You can begin with book one AT HOME IN MITFORD and move through all eleven books with no waiting!

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