Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer Reading

by Alice Valdal

 The 24th of May is the Queen's Birthday/ If you don't give us a holiday/ we'll all run away.  So went the schoolyard jingle when I was growing up.  The Queen in question was Victoria, and no, I am not that old! 
     Nowadays we celebrate her birthday on the Monday before the 24th of May so the rhyme doesn't work as well, but the holiday is still a favourite.  The first long weekend of the summer.  Time to open up the cottage, camp in a park, or put in the garden or . . . my personal favourite, read.  On the holiday weekend, I love to find a warm spot in the sun, curl up and open a good book.
    We have some of those good books in the church library.  One of my favourites is the Mitford series of novels by Jan Karon.  The unlikely hero of these books is an aging, balding Episcopalian priest with diabetes and a very large dog.   Over the course of the books he also acquires a wife, a lost boy, and the boy's lost siblings.  The books take place in the south-eastern U.S. but there are echos of the British cozy in the details of village and vicarage life.
      Karon's style is brisk and witty, peopling her novels with an amazing cast of characters -- some wise, some foolish, some eccentric, some endearing -- all part of Father Tim's flock, all loved by him and by Jesus Christ.
      As well as writing delightful books, the author  herself has an interesting story.  From the age of ten she knew she wanted to write a book, but she spent nearly twenty years earning her living in advertising.  Then, shortly after she became a Christian, she quit her job and set about to write the book she believed was her calling.  It didn't work. The manuscript was a mess.  She spent two years trying, but she couldn't make the novel come together.   Everything changed one night, when she awoke from a dream with the image of Father Tim in her mind.  She didn't know who he was, or where the story went, but she was sure it was the story she was meant to tell. 
        So, she started writing and the first of the Mitford books emerged.  Even then it wasn't clear sailing.   Publishers didn't know what to make of her work or how to market it.  In the end, gave the chapters to her local newspaper who published them in serial form. (Dickens anyone?)  In short order that small town newspaper doubled and tripled its circulation, adding readers from all over the country.   Jan Karon had found her audience.
   I'm glad she did.
   If you're looking for a funny, thoughtful story of faith, I highly recommend any of Jan Karon's Mitford books, available in the SPPC library. 

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