Father Tim is retired. Having returned from his trip to Ireland, he is now feeling restless, a little bored, and useless.
“I’m still jet-lagged,” he said.
“Jet-lagged? After ten days? Try again, sweetheart.”
Little does Father Tim know, that even after retirement, life happens. He will be offered a position as interim pastor within very difficult circumstances for his former flock, called upon in a crisis to help out at a bookstore, and rescue Dooley’s younger sibling Sammy, from himself.
There are other dilemmas as well. The local town paper seems to insist upon putting Father Tim in the spotlight, something he abhors at the best of times. He needs a haircut but he isn’t very enthusiastic about meeting up with his old nemesis, Fancy Skinner, so he takes matters into his own hands. Fancy’s sister Shirlene has moved to town complete with tanning booth and turns the town upside down. And those are only a few of the challenges that will face Father Tim in this fresh Mitford story.
But in between all the difficulties that life is offering Father Tim at this particular point in time, there are also little bits of hope.
“Here he was, seventysomething,and still whining, though God had woven like a gold thread through every chapter of every book of Holy Writ: Rejoice! Know that I am with you and for you and will never leave you take courage that I will fight for you and be your shield and buckler and provide for you when you are old…”
I had originally read four or five of the Mitford series and, although I liked them a lot, I never continued with the series (although now, I’m going to). And then I picked up “Somewhere Safe…” off the ‘new books’ shelf at my local library.
“Somewhere Safe…” isn’t a novel of suspense, or mystery, or historical fiction (my favorite genres). There aren’t high-speed chases, Regency-era duels to be fought with masked heroes or high-powered, successful and gutsy heroines. It’s just a quiet story about Father Tim, his wife Cynthia, the small town they live in and the problems that arise during everyday life.
And I loved it.
Father Tim is the perfect non-judgmental, compassionate priest who nevertheless stands firm on what he believes and somehow is able to mix his faith with action, albeit while often risking public opinion. He rescues and ‘pulls out of the fire’ those suffering from the consequences of their choices, whether it be a troubled teen or a middle-aged man of the cloth, and is called upon more than once to assist those with questions, bereavements, illnesses, threatened miscarraiges.
There is something about this book that really hits the spot. Perhaps the timing was just right (I had just suffered a family loss), or maybe it was that after reading several Christie mysteries, I was ready for a slower-paced book. Jan Karon, though never overly intricate or descriptive with wording or sentence-structure or plotting, somehow puts her finger on the flaws and foibles of human nature and brings her characters ‘home’ to the reader. She makes us laugh, cry, and appreciate the smaller pleasures of life itself. And yet, lest we forget that Fr. Tim is anything but human, the author also shows us his own humanity and struggles to forgive:
“How was he really feeling about all this, about some out-of-control kid stealing his car and wrecking it?
He went deep and discovered the truth. He was furious.”