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Books by
Jan Karon


IN THE COMPANY OF OTHERS:
A Father Tim Novel


HOME TO HOLLY SPRINGS:
The First of the Father Tim Novels


LIGHT FROM HEAVEN

JAN KARON'S MITFORD COOKBOOK & KITCHEN READER

SHEPHERDS ABIDING:
A Mitford Christmas Story


ESTHER'S GIFT:
A Mitford Christmas Story


THE MITFORD YEARS SERIES Reading Group Guides

Book I: AT HOME IN MITFORD

Book II: A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW

Book III: THESE HIGH, GREEN HILLS

Book IV: OUT TO CANAAN

Book V: A NEW SONG

Book VI: A COMMON LIFE

Book VII: IN THIS MOUNTAIN

Book VIII: SHEPHERDS ABIDING


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LIGHT FROM HEAVEN
Jan Karon
Viking
Fiction
ISBN: 0670034533

It's the final encore for the characters of Mitford, "the little town with the big heart," as the curtain rings down on the long-running series. Fans who have devotedly read each of the Mitford Years novels will be delighted that this long-awaited conclusion is everything that might be hoped for, and a little bit more.

Father Tim Kavanaugh and his wife Cynthia are farm-sitting for their friends, just 20 minutes from Mitford. It's the setting for a number of developments. Dooley is a college student studying to be a veterinarian, and about to find out he has a huge inheritance that will smooth his future career path. He's also about to make his relationship as "son" to Father Tim and Cynthia official. Those who remember the abused little boy Dooley, showing up on the then-bachelor Father Tim's doorstep in the inaugural novel AT HOME IN MITFORD, may shed a tear or two, as readers see what the love of a good man can mean to a boy starved for attention, affection and discipline. It's unabashedly poignant. Not that Father Tim's parenting work is done --- Dooley's little brother Sammy is now part of the Kavanaugh family, rough around the edges and harboring a penchant for shooting pool and planting gardens. And Kenny, Dooley's missing sibling, still must be found and returned to the fold.

Cynthia, who had planned to tackle nothing more difficult than learning how to make good home fries, read, and learn needlepoint while on the farm, ends up hard at work on a series of watercolors for a calendar featuring Violet, the cat, in the country. With Cynthia so busy, Father Tim finds that he wants something concrete to do. He's delighted when he's asked to be the vicar of a small church, Holy Trinity, that has been empty for almost 40 years. But Father Tim discovers that while the church has been empty, it's not been neglected, and a new beginning awaits him. Kudos to Jan Karon, who shows beautifully through both Father Tim and Cynthia that getting older does not mean "retiring" from life. Some of the best work we do might come after 60!

Karon issues an altar call for all the characters readers have grown to love. The irascible Emma, Father Tim's former assistant, shoots him hilarious emails full of her fears about her upcoming trip to England. Puny has given birth to a second set of twins, this time boys, and the unlikable Edith Mallory, who suffered a serious head injury seven months before the story opens, speaks a single word: "God." Many others are woven throughout the story. Some of the beloved Mitford characters are dead or dying: Russell Jacks (who made "livermush" famous for Karon's readers), Absalom Greer, Miss Sadie, and Uncle Billy. Dying is on Father Tim's mind more these days as he nears the ripe age of 70: "He wasn't however, afraid of dying; he knew where he was going, what he feared, instead, was leaving some crucial work undone..."

The plot turns easily on simple things: the restoring of the abandoned Holy Trinity church and recovery of its congregation, a search for Miss Sadie's cache of money hidden in an old Plymouth automobile, the dilemmas of Cynthia's work as an artist in the midst of farm life, and the challenges of taking neglected children in hand.

More surprisingly, perhaps (and a hint of the promised Father Tim Novels series to come?), a new cast of characters parades across the pages: Agnes Merton, one of the last faithful members of Holy Trinity and a newfound friend to Father Tim; Robert, who served time for murder in prison; Rooter, whose antics will make you smile; and Clarence, a deaf and talented carpenter. There's also the cranky, reclusive Jubal Adderholt whose cabin walls are furred with squirrel tails, and the McKinney sisters, Mary and Martha (one fat, one thin). Father Tim takes on another attention-starved child "project" in precocious five-year-old Sissie, the daughter of Dovey Gleason, who is chronically bed-ridden with a mysterious illness.

As you'd expect, there's some ruminations about the past, some wrapping up of old plotlines, and a few surprises. This is a tender tale, spiced with plenty of prayers, old hymns, homilies, good food, and country jokes that would make Uncle Billy Watson proud. Mitford lovers will turn the final pages of LIGHT FROM HEAVEN with the feeling that comes after finishing a big, delicious meal: full, satisfied, and content.


   --- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at phrelanzer@aol.com.

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