14 August 2013

Life in Mitford

A couple of weeks ago, I found the first two novels of Jan Karon's popular Mitford series at a garage sale. I remembered my mother enjoying several of the novels years ago, and decided to give them a try during Little Bear's long afternoon naps. What a treat! By the middle of the first book, I was enchanted.

Life in the small, rural town is presented with simplicity, pathos, and a heartwarming charm that reminds me of Anne of Green Gables and other similar stories from my childhood, but with a focus on adults. The characters are so human: complex characters with strengths and flaws and foibles, which made me feel like I was getting to know real people as the story unfolded. One thing I really appreciate is that Karon allows her characters to make human mistakes, and to patch them up in human ways: Olivia pushes away happiness that she believes there is too little hope for, Father Tim resists taking a much-needed break because he is convinced that the day-to-day is too important, Puny sighs when no men are interested and complains when some are. All of the characters are a little bit weak, a little bit foolish at times: knowing what the right thing to do is, maybe, but not always being courageous enough. But they keep trying.

It reminds me, each time I want to take CJ to task for besmirching the reputation of newspapermen, or walk out of the office with Father Tim after one of Emma's more exasperating remarks, to be more patient with myself and those around me in my own day-to-day. When I want to roll my eyes at Cynthia for jumping to conclusions and refusing to listen to explanations because her feelings are hurt, I have to wonder how many times I've done the very same thing. The books don't come off as "preachy," but have certainly made me reflect on my own foibles quite a few times as I recognize them in the actions of one character or another.

Our local used bookstore had volumes three through eight of the series, and a friend passed on her copy of the final novel, so I am slowly absorbing them. Right now, I'm close to halfway through the third; this one is taking longer, because the interactions of the newly-married couple are making me crazy. I know that some of the problems they've had adjusting are common, or at least stereotypically so, and everyone says that adjusting to married life tends to be more difficult the later in life you marry, but good gracious. Maybe we are just horribly prosaic people? I cannot even imagine any of their problems even being worth wasting brain cells thinking about. They certainly never came up for us. But there you go; I have certainly had my own little "it's supposed to work like this" moments just like Cynthia, even if about very different things, and Matt has just been more good-natured about letting me do things the way that I'm accustomed to.

So clearly, the third is every bit as good for me as the first two, and I'm sure they will finish rearranging furniture eventually.  

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