Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good: The New Mitford NovelSomewhere Safe with Somebody Good: The New Mitford Novel by Jan Karon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m giving this 4 stars, but only because it’s an opportunity to revisit a beloved place, and old familiar characters. If you haven’t read the other Mitford novels, you may want to start at the beginning. This book is a bit rambling and doesn’t really go anywhere in particular. No crises to overcome, no dramatic conversions, no big miracles – just catching up with our characters as they get on with life in a small town, where people DO take care of each other, and where prayer is the solution to everything. This is Mayberry RFD for the 21st century. I especially enjoyed the thread of Father Tim working at the bookstore. Not all is resolved in the end, so I’m sure there will be more books to come.

Book description: After five hectic years of retirement from Lord’s Chapel, Father Tim Kavanagh returns with his wife, Cynthia, from a so-called pleasure trip to the land of his Irish ancestors. While glad to be at home in Mitford, something is definitely missing: a pulpit. But when he’s offered one, he decides he doesn’t want it. Maybe he’s lost his passion. His adopted son, Dooley, wrestles with his own passion—for the beautiful and gifted Lace Turner, and his vision to become a successful country vet. Dooley’s brother, Sammy, still enraged by his mother’s abandonment, destroys one of Father Tim’s prized possessions. And Hope Murphy, owner of Happy Endings bookstore, struggles with the potential loss of her unborn child and her hard-won business. All this as Wanda’s Feel Good Café opens, a romance catches fire through an Internet word game, their former mayor hatches a reelection campaign to throw the bums out, and the weekly Muse poses a probing inquiry: Does Mitford still take care of its own?

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In the Company of Others

In the Company of Others: A Father Tim NovelIn the Company of Others: A Father Tim Novel by Jan Karon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I Have really enjoyed Jan Karon’s books for her interesting characters, uplifting message, and sense of fun and humor. I especially enjoyed the first Father Tim novel, which seemed to be a bit edgier than the previous Mitford series. This book was a bit disappointing to me. I expected much more from a book set in Ireland. Except for the attempt at local dialect (which I listened to as an audiobook) there was nothing much Irish about the setting, or representative of the culture. While the characters were interesting, and the humor was there, it was difficult to sort out who was who and how they were all related. I also found this book’s message bordering on proselytizing which got tiresome. And the last minute change of heart of deeply embittered and wounded characters was just not believable.

Audio version read by Erik Singer. Description from back of box: Father Time and Cynthia arrive in the west of Ireland, intent on researching his Kavanagh ancestry from the comfort of a charming fishing lodge. The charm, however, is broken entirely when Cynthia startles a burglar and sprains her already injured ankle. Then a cherished and valuable painting is stolen from the lodge owners, and Cynthia’s pain pales in comparison to the wound at the center of this bitterly estranged Irish family.

The Shack

The Shack The Shack by William P. Young

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
There has been a lot of buzz around this book. I probably wouldn’t have read it, except that I was intrigued after reading an excerpt on www.bookdaily.com. The first chapter was lyrical and full of wonderful imagery. So I decided to read it. Unfortunately, the author didn’t sustain that throughout the book. There were glimpses of it though. I hope this aspect of the author’s writing will grow with future efforts.

This is a book with a mission. Or a message. I’m not sure quite what that is. At times the author seems to beat you over the head with it. I almost expected devotional questions after each chapter. The mix of liberal ideas about the nature of God with conservative theology doesn’t quite work for me. Clearly the author wants to bring joy and hope to readers who are struggling with their own broken dreams and damaged hearts. And I do think this book has the ability to do that. While I don’t share the author’s theological stance, he creates room for each person to find their own relationship with God. Some have criticized that it anthropomorphizes God too much. Others, that the story is sappy and trite, and like a bad teenage fantasy novel. Yes, the story is silly at times. But it would make a great movie!

We all anthropomorphize God, creating Him in our own image, or at least in an image that is comfortable for us. Mr. Young’s depiction of the Trinity is an attempt to move people out of old religious stereotypes. It certainly isn’t meant to be taken literally. Even at the end of the book, there is a certain ambiguity about whether the encounter at the shack actually happened, or was it all the result of a blow to the head, or the aftermath of a car accident and coma? But most of the time I found myself thinking this is really silly. God doesn’t operate this way. The “miracle” of Mack’s healing was too superficial, and too “easy.”

Whatever your religious beliefs, the themes of wrestling with why God allows evil things to happen, the nature of free will, and the power of forgiveness are universal. Book clubs will find much to discuss here.