A NEW SONG, the fifth book in Jan Karon's engaging series about Father Tim Kavanagh and his ministry to small-town folk in North Carolina, continues the gently appealing tradition that Karon's loyal fans have come to love. Readers who have been waiting for the next installment about Mitford and its inhabitants will not be disappointed. A NEW SONG features a captivating cast of characters they will want to get to know better.
To call A NEW SONG a "new Mitford book" is a bit misleading. Although many of the quirky and wonderful characters pop up from time to time in this book, it is not set primarily in Mitford. Father Tim has retired, and he and Cynthia are off to a new adventure as he takes an interim pastorate on Whitecap Island, on North Carolina's Outer Banks. As the couple settles into their new rectory and gets to know the new church folks, readers come to know a new set of local characters, as appealing and quirky as the Mitford people with whom they've grown familiar.
The recluse whose beautiful organ music comes into the rectory windows on summer nights; the bachelor who tries his hand at finding a mate through the personal ads; and the single mother whose depression makes her temporarily unable to care for her children present Father Tim with new pastoral challenges. The two women engaged in a power struggle over who runs the church vie for Father Tim's time. He learns to care for all of them with the same kind of concern that made him so well-loved in Mitford.
Mitford isn't quite ready to let go of Father Tim even though they have an interim pastor of their own. He is torn between two places and unable to let go fully of the old in order to completely embrace the new. How much care is too much?
I've always been a bit jealous of Father Tim. Somehow he gets it all done: people love him, he visits everyone who needs it and things just go well for him. I love reading about his journeys through the parish and the contact he has with parishioners, and I wish that my encounters with people were just as meaningful as his. And then I remember that he's fictional, and I breathe a little easier again.
Jan Karon has some truly wonderful insights into parish life and pastoral work. Her description of the difficulty of letting go of one parish in order to be fully present to the new one is right on target. When I described some of Father Tim's feelings and experiences to a colleague who has served several interim pastorates --- the difficulty of leaving one place, the jealousy over the success of the new person, the homesickness and the difficult and wonderful task of discovering new people --- she said, "How does Jan Karon know these things?"
Somehow, Jan Karon does know. And she proves it once again in A NEW SONG. You don't need to have read all the previous books in this series to enjoy this one, but I'm willing to bet you'll want to go back and catch up after you finish A NEW SONG.
Reviewed by Jeanny V. House on April 11, 1999
A New Song