Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Book Review: In the Company of Others by Jan Karon

Jacket photo illustration Shasti O'Leary Soudant; image Michael Trevillion/Trevillion Images
Father Tim Series Continues with a Trip to Ireland, the Past
By Lauren Yarger
Father Tim Kavanagh and his wife Cynthia take a long-anticipated trip to the land of Tim’s ancestors in Ireland, but hopes of spending a relaxing vacation reading poetry and scripture while catching up with relatives soon are dashed by an injury, an art theft and discoveries in an old journal in Jan Karon’s latest, “In the Company of Others" (Penguin Group, 2010).

Readers of Karon’s Mitford series books won’t be surprised that Tim finds himself immersed in the lives of the people at the quaint lodge where they stay. There’s an ancient rivalry, a love that can’t be and a bunch of folks who need help reaching out to each other – all right up the alley of the retired Episcopal priest. When Cynthia sprains an ankle and is confined to her bed, Tim has even more time to befriend the townsfolks and help solve the art theft.

This second in the “Father Tim” series following the successful Mitford series (so-called for the quaint North Carolina town and its inhabitants who come alive in 10 books) has a high calling: to somehow link Father Tim’s Mitford past with his new phase of life. The first Father Tim book was excellent, taking the priest, on his own thanks to Cynthia’s convenient wayward ankle (it’s a break in this one), to his boyhood home in Mississippi where a lot of questions that persisted about Tim and his childhood are answered. It is completely satisfying. 

“In the Company of Others” is the first book with Father Tim out on his own, coming to grips with retirement, and the people of County Sligo village become his new “parishioners.” We are introduced to all of the folks involved in the present events and intrigue in and near the lodge, discover the characters and intrigue that used to be around the lodge through long passages from the doctor’s old journal and keeep up to date with Mitford through phone calls from son Dooley and emails from Tim’s former secretary, Esther. It’s a lot of people and situations to absorb, so this book probably isn’t a good place to jump in to Tim’s life. Start in Mitford.

The lives of the present and past Irish folks is interesting, but they don’t hold a candle to what Tim experiences. I suspect Mitford fans would have been happy to sit with the Kavanaughs in their room gazing out on the countryside while Cynthia painted and Tim read from one of his favorite books of poetry because reading Karon’s insights into people, life and God is like spending quality time with an old and trusted friend. Sans a mystery and other people, there wouldn’t have been much of a novel for other readers, though..

Probably the most satisfying subplot involves Tim’s reaching out to a lonely, bitter old woman who, spurned by love, makes everyone around her miserable. In typical fashion, we walk along with Tim as he refuses to give in to her moods, won't be discouraged by the defensive wall she has built around herself and consistently offers her friendship to tell her that God and forgiveness are the only way to let go of the past and restore joy in her life.

Readers had a three-year wait inbetween “Home to Holly Springs” and “In the Company of Others.” Here's hoping we'll be treated to the next installment soon.


Findout more about the author and the Mitford series here

Note: a review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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