At certain times in my life, I have opened a book and discovered a friend. I have chuckled with Anne Shirley over her comical escapades in the quiet town of Avonlea. I have stood under the watchful eye of Aunt Polly and scolded Tom Sawyer for skipping school, only to shrug and offer to whitewash the fence for him once her back was turned. Once I even considered inviting Jo March to dinner, though this idea was quickly dismissed, for I felt quite certain that Jo would go nowhere without her three sisters in tow and before I knew it the entire March clan would show up at my door, for which I had neither the time nor the energy. At this thought I poured myself a cup of tea, took Little Women down from the bookshelf, and visited Jo at her house instead.
The pleasure I gain from each visit to the March household is not unlike that feeling of elation that follows a particularly successful tree climb, or a brisk walk, or any sort of activity involving lighthearted exertion, and it could not be more different from the sense of peace rendered by the easy embrace of those who inhabit the fictional small mountain town of Mitford, North Carolina, created by Jan Karon. From the beginning, feeling at home in Mitford is as effortless as putting on a pair of well-used slippers. When we readers come knocking, Mitford pats us on the back, invites us in, and offers us a glass of iced tea sugared with a generous dose of hospitality.
Our first encounter with the locals as we stroll through the centre of town is with Father Tim – small in stature, slightly balding, with lively eyes and a cheerful demeanour. This country parson – who will become the book’s most prominent character and our eyes and ears in Mitford – is brought alive for us before we even know his name. He is the man we absent-mindedly pass by on the sidewalk as he steps out of the Main Street Grill and breathes in the honest cold of a mountain spring. We hear his thoughts before we see his fac
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