Five years after retiring due to health problems, Father Tim Kavanagh is still reeling. What he sees at first as the "yawning indifference" of his church family is hurtful, but time has passed and an exciting trip to Ireland with his wife, Cynthia, has served to cushion the blow. Still, he finds the idea "to withdraw someplace for the sake of seclusion"—and to stay there—far too inviting.

But Mitford is up to its usual tricks—something interesting happening every hour on the hour. So when Hope Murphy, the owner of the local bookstore, has to spend the rest of her pregnancy on bedrest, he volunteers to keep the store open one day a week, and several other friends fill up most of the others. Variations on the theme ensue—and Karon does it once more—makes small-town affairs interesting enough to entertain readers all over again. And again.

Life never slows down, though Father Tim feels he has, and he sensibly declines to take back the parish after his successor creates a scandal. As in all the Mitford books, Father Tim delves into the seriousness of his as well as others' faith, and finds new answers—hard-won wisdom that settles old questions in satisfying ways.

Karon has written nine previous Mitford books, and a few other related titles. Not counting her reckless way with pronouns, they seem only to get better. Although readers should know better by now, her humor is always unexpected and sly, of the smile-out-loud variety, and surely makes the story more palatable for non-religious readers. The rest of us are simply grateful for her ability to home in unerringly on the light spots that make the heavy going of life easier for us all.

It is hard to imagine that there is much more that can be said about Father Tim and his gang, yet Karon keeps finding new fodder. Unexpected opportunities open here for his relationships with his adopted son's family, and Karon has already demonstrated that she can make a rich meal out of unpromising ingredients.

"No two persons ever read the same book," as Karon quotes Edmund Wilson. (The wealth of trenchant quotes about books included here alone make Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good worth reading.) Perhaps Karon's readers are all reading different books, but every one of them is worth the trouble.

 

RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Jan Karon about this book.

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