Saturday, April 05, 2008

Home to Holly Springs

I have read the entire Mitford series by Jan Karon and enjoyed each book thoroughly. I have read many reviews that used words like predictable, sappy, etc. Are they predictable? Yes, but not always. Are they sappy? I didn't find them so but I guess in some peoples opinion they could be. Light? Yes. Preachy? In my opinion, no. To me, they are a welcome relief from a big city world where just turning on the morning news can incite fear for our very being. Mitford is a lovely place to escape to.

So, when I began "Home to Holly Springs" I expected more of the affable Fr. Tim and his host of Mitford characters. I was quite surprised to find a rather deep depiction of Tim Kavanaugh's childhood fraught with violence, deception, racial situations and fear. Karon does, IMHO, an outstanding job of presenting these concepts to her readers without Fr. Tim losing his "identity". She also recreates these events in Fr. Tim's life graphically enough to her get point across but not so much as to lose her tone and HER identity.

In the original Mitford series, religious faith is obviously the main storyline but takes a backseat to the characters and life in the small North Carolina town. Faith is underlying and referred to but it is still light reading. In the Holly Springs books, faith is viewed as deep, long time coming, sometimes difficult to understand and maintain but, in the end, something we all need to get us through the difficulties of life. I found the emphasis on religion between the two series to be completely different -- much more significant in Holly Springs.

Being of a religious mind myself, I was drawn to the original books because of their wholesomeness. They possess comedic situations, are upbeat, have likeable characters and picturesque settings. They show the vulnerability of the human spirit and aren't afraid to confess God in our everyday life. Holly Springs, however, is different. It, too, has great characterization, comedic episodes, and picturesque settings. However, the faith shown in this book is deeper, more urgent, the situations much more serious-- life threatening and life affirming. I found the original series to be faith building but not anything like Holly Springs.

"Home to Holly Springs" is a wonderful book. In my opinion is flows flawlessly, the characters are well developed and it draws you in from the first page. While I succumbed to the faith building aspect of the work, it could be read and enjoyed by anyone of any belief. It isn't preachy -- it just teaches by example, shows how people are really flawed and faith gets them through the tough things that life throws at us.

Predictable? To some extent. Sappy? Sure. Enjoyable? Absolutely. Recommended? Without a doubt!