Review

Light From Heaven

by Jan Karon



It's the final encore for the characters of Mitford, "the little
town with the big heart," as the curtain rings down on the
long-running series. Fans who have devotedly read each of the
Mitford Years novels will be delighted that this
long-awaited conclusion is everything that might be hoped for, and
a little bit more.

Father Tim Kavanaugh and his wife Cynthia are farm-sitting for
their friends, just 20 minutes from Mitford. It's the setting for a
number of developments. Dooley is a college student studying to be
a veterinarian, and about to find out he has a huge inheritance
that will smooth his future career path. He's also about to make
his relationship as "son" to Father Tim and Cynthia official. Those
who remember the abused little boy Dooley, showing up on the
then-bachelor Father Tim's doorstep in the inaugural novel AT HOME
IN MITFORD, may shed a tear or two, as readers see what the love of
a good man can mean to a boy starved for attention, affection and
discipline. It's unabashedly poignant. Not that Father Tim's
parenting work is done --- Dooley's little brother Sammy is now
part of the Kavanaugh family, rough around the edges and harboring
a penchant for shooting pool and planting gardens. And Kenny,
Dooley's missing sibling, still must be found and returned to the
fold.

Cynthia, who had planned to tackle nothing more difficult than
learning how to make good home fries, read, and learn needlepoint
while on the farm, ends up hard at work on a series of watercolors
for a calendar featuring Violet, the cat, in the country. With
Cynthia so busy, Father Tim finds that he wants something concrete
to do. He's delighted when he's asked to be the vicar of a small
church, Holy Trinity, that has been empty for almost 40 years. But
Father Tim discovers that while the church has been empty, it's not
been neglected, and a new beginning awaits him. Kudos to Jan Karon,
who shows beautifully through both Father Tim and Cynthia that
getting older does not mean "retiring" from life. Some of the best
work we do might come after 60!

Karon issues an altar call for all the characters readers have
grown to love. The irascible Emma, Father Tim's former assistant,
shoots him hilarious emails full of her fears about her upcoming
trip to England. Puny has given birth to a second set of twins,
this time boys, and the unlikable Edith Mallory, who suffered a
serious head injury seven months before the story opens, speaks a
single word: "God." Many others are woven throughout the story.
Some of the beloved Mitford characters are dead or dying: Russell
Jacks (who made "livermush" famous for Karon's readers), Absalom
Greer, Miss Sadie, and Uncle Billy. Dying is on Father Tim's mind
more these days as he nears the ripe age of 70: "He wasn't however,
afraid of dying; he knew where he was going, what he feared,
instead, was leaving some crucial work undone..."

The plot turns easily on simple things: the restoring of the
abandoned Holy Trinity church and recovery of its congregation, a
search for Miss Sadie's cache of money hidden in an old Plymouth
automobile, the dilemmas of Cynthia's work as an artist in the
midst of farm life, and the challenges of taking neglected children
in hand.

More surprisingly, perhaps (and a hint of the promised Father
Tim Novels
series to come?), a new cast of characters parades
across the pages: Agnes Merton, one of the last faithful members of
Holy Trinity and a newfound friend to Father Tim; Robert, who
served time for murder in prison; Rooter, whose antics will make
you smile; and Clarence, a deaf and talented carpenter. There's
also the cranky, reclusive Jubal Adderholt whose cabin walls are
furred with squirrel tails, and the McKinney sisters, Mary and
Martha (one fat, one thin). Father Tim takes on another
attention-starved child "project" in precocious five-year-old
Sissie, the daughter of Dovey Gleason, who is chronically
bed-ridden with a mysterious illness.

As you'd expect, there's some ruminations about the past, some
wrapping up of old plotlines, and a few surprises. This is a tender
tale, spiced with plenty of prayers, old hymns, homilies, good
food, and country jokes that would make Uncle Billy Watson proud.
Mitford lovers will turn the final pages of LIGHT FROM HEAVEN with
the feeling that comes after finishing a big, delicious meal: full,
satisfied, and content.

Reviewed by Cindy Crosby. Contact Cindy at on January 11, 2011

Light From Heaven
by Jan Karon

  • Publication Date: November 8, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0670034533
  • ISBN-13: 9780739458938