Eating chicken salad and chatting with friends at the Main Street Grill…spending a peaceful Sunday afternoon at Meadowgate Farm…listening to one of dear old Uncle Billy Watson’s famous jokes…sitting in prayer within the quiet stone walls of Lord’s Chapel with Father Tim. These are some of the things that make you feel At Home in Mitford.
My mom and I discovered Jan Karon’s Mitford books when I was a teenager, and we—along with my sister now—have come to know the characters as personal friends. You know there must be something special about a series when truly Christian stories gain a sturdy place with a secular publisher—and on the New York Times bestseller list.
When my parents went away for a little “half-anniversary” get-away a week or two ago, they brought my sister and me each a little surprise. Mine was The Mitford Bedside Companion. It had been a few years since I visited this small town in the Blue Ridge mountains—and oh, it’s been lovely to be back! This book is full of favorite scenes and snippets from the series, organized by topic: special occasions, recipes, Scripture, letters, prayer…and of course, Uncle Billy’s jokes.
If you’ve never been to Mitford, let me invite you to pay a visit. (Don’t start with the bedtime companion, though—it’s intended for those readers familiar with all the books). I don’t know exactly what it is that makes these books so special, though I’m quite sure it has something to do with the characters. They are so real—both in that each one is so unique and deep and well-rounded in his or her own way that you think you could easily recognize them passing on the street, and in that their daily lives and emotions and struggles and joys are so true to life. Father Tim and Cynthia, wounded yet hopeful young Dooley Barlowe with his red cowlick, spritely Miss Sadie, Esther Bolick and her orange marmalade cake, Barnabas, the dog the size of a sofa…and so many more. Last night I read a bit from my new book before bed (I think it’s a volume aptly named!) and found myself first weeping and then laughing out loud within the space of a few minutes. Perhaps that is one test of truly great writing—it so touches your heart that you both laugh and cry.
So stop by your local library or bookstore—either should be stocked with Mitford. And soon, all you’ll have to do is open one of the covers to feel you’ve come home.