A dear friend pressed her copy of Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (the latest in the Jan Karon Mitford series) into my hands with these words:
“I almost stopped reading this book because nothing was happening, but once I got past the first 50 pages, I started to see something going on after all."
Although I had once loved the Mitford series myself, eagerly grabbing up the annual installment as soon is hit the stores, I admit the shine had worn a bit thin for me in the past few years. I’d found myself a little tired of the small-town folksiness, I guess, and passed up the Mitford series in favor of more “contemporary” settings. But in a typical Mitford style sentiment, absence does make the heart grow fonder, and I found myself eagerly engaged in this one, happy to meet up with Father Tim, his wife Cynthia, and all the familiar Mitford characters (with a few new ones thrown in to spice things up a bit).
When I logged into Goodreads to add the book to my "currently reading" shelf, I noticed a number of reviews complaining about the same thing my friend had originally found lacking.
“Nothing happens in this book!” one person wrote.
“I couldn’t even finish it,” said another. “The action did not move forward."
Sigh. Well, I suppose it’s true, not a lot does happen in Mitford. There are no intricate plot twists, no dystopian societies, no terrorist threats, no kidnappings or murders.
There’s just regular LIFE, with it’s regular kinds of messiness: young people finding their way into it; middle aged people working through their way though it, old people coming to the end of it. There are troubled teenagers, young lovers, marriages in crisis. There are folks learning to love their families, enjoying their favorite pastimes, breaking bread together.
Most of the time, everyone in Mitford is doing their best to live a “Christian” life: to be kind and caring, and happy. As my friend said, “something really goes on after all."
Now I like to read a good thriller, or mystery, or historic novel as well as the next person. But every once in a while, in the midst of the buzz and bustle of real life in the 21st century, it’s kind of comforting to sit back and read about people who live the small town kind of existence that’s probably in very short supply if it still exists at all. Does something always have to happen? Does the action always have to move forward at an thrilling pace? Does our reading life always need to be as complex and conflicted as our real life?
My happiest days are the Mitford-y kind: Meeting my friends, taking care of my family, doing some work I enjoy and am good at, having an opportunity to do something good for someone. Call me dull or boring if you want, but that’s an action-packed day for me.
I’m nearly finished with this one, and I do feel as if the past couple of reading days have been spent Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good. It’s a pleasant and comforting feeling, and as far as I’m concerned, it can happen as often as possible.
How about you? Do you like a little “comfort” reading every once in a while?