Thursday, December 28, 2006

Book review: Light from Heaven by Jan Karon

Jan Karon's Mitford series is my "dessert" reading. The Christmas break afforded me the opportunity to savor the last chapter of the final book in the series, Light from Heaven. It turns out the timing of my reading was perfect, since the book closes with a Christmas celebration.

If you like a White Christmas, there is a decided advantage to stepping in on the Mitford celebration. You can enjoy the snow without shoveling it or driving in it!

"The snow was falling thick and fast by the time they turned into the driveway at Meadowgate. The wreaths on the gateposts had a fine topping of snow, and the wipers had already pushed a good bit of it to either side of the windshield."

Doesn't that sound idyllic?

Whenever I finish a "Mitford" book, a sense of sweetness lingers. I'm not quite sure how the author achieves that result, because the characters she portrays certainly have flaws and foibles. But those are perhaps the very things that serve to endear the characters to my heart. Whether we hail from a rural, mountain community like Mitford or from the plains or the desert, underneath we are all people of like passion.

Father Kavanaugh, the main character, is a man of deep and vibrant faith. Very refreshing, because there is no timidity in the way he is portrayed.

Often, I find myself reaching for pen and paper to jot down the snippets of poetry that are sprinkled throughout the book. Like this one, entitled "Let the Stable Still Astonish" by Leslie Leyland Fields:

Let the stable still astonish;
Straw--dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkey, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the child,
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.
Who would have chosen this?

Who would have said: 'Yes.
Let the God of all the heavens
And earth
Be born here, in this place'?
Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms
of our hearts
and says, 'Yes.
let the God of Heaven and Earth
be born here-
in this place.'"

I LOVE that and would use it in my next Christmas greeting, but for its length. Most people don't read greetings over a couple of sentences long.

Incidentally, there is a book of Father Tim's favorite quotes and poems entitled Patches of Godlight. I own the book and love it, too, but somehow I always see the words differently when they are applied to the story.

I am a little sad to close the last page on Mitford. I've laughed and cried with those folks for many years. But of course I can and will go back and re-live their best moments. Our family enjoys taking the audio books with us on long car trips, the ones read by the author. Jan Karon has a slight southern lilt that adds just the right touch to the reading.

Light from Heaven is certainly a worthy finale to the Mitford series.


SeasonalSoundings said...

Ah, Jan Karon. I have enjoyed each book by her. Such refreshing writing, and I'm looking forward to the new Father Tim novels. Last week I caught (and recorded) an interview with Karon on PBS. She is just so down to earth.

Terri said...

Dear Poiema,

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog. The way you express yourself is very refreshing - like a cool drink of water from a garden hose. I hope that you continue in this endeavor.


Peregrina said...

My dear, I expect to see that on your Christmas cards next year! I had it copied in my quote book from when I read the book!

Carol in Oregon said...

Add my to the list of Karon/Mitford fans. That book was good to the very last sentence wasn't it. In fact, the last sentence completely undid me. I sobbed and sobbed after I read it.

My son (!) and I have really, really enjoyed Focus on the Family's dramatic version of At Home in Mitford

Jan Karon introduces it. We even contacted FOF to see if they planned to make any more. Sadly, no.

kim said...

I loved the book, but don't totally get the ending - was it Kenny who showed up?