There are some places that are described as being too good to be true. Mitford, the setting of Jan Karon’s At Home in Mitford, really is just that. Along with a slowly meandering plot and exaggerated characters, Karon’s novel is made primarily of scrumptious dinner parties and picturesque views rather than any substantial story.
Father Timothy, the star of Karon’s book, is the aging reverend of a small church in the idyllic mountain town of Mitford. Surrounded my friendly neighbors, beautiful countryside, and every imaginable comfort, Father Tim still finds himself lonely, depressed, and unsatisfied.
Life grows more serious for Father Tim as problems begin to rain down on his life. Several parish members face troubles like cancer, homelessness, and loss. His own health comes to a crisis. And his beloved church becomes the scene of a tabloid-worthy crime.
Father Tim’s faith and his loyal friends support him through these trials, but his struggles prepare his heart for the affectionate bear of a dog, the trouble-making little boy, and the surprising new neighbor who come suddenly into his life.
The plot of Karon’s novel stays true to the spirit (one might say too true to it) of life in Mitford: slow, aimless, uneventful. Only after the book is halfway through does a plot start to take any discernible form. Karon draws a beautiful picture of charming townspeople and heart-warming village life, but it bears an unfortunate resemblance to Thomas Kinkade’s artwork; they are merely pretty scenes don’t truly say anything.
Karon’s prose was pleasant, her story smooth and coherent, but it lacked emotional depth. What I felt most strongly while reading At Home in Mitford was mouth-watering hunger, and the action I was most inspired towards was cooking up a dinner party or picnic.
Despite the book’s inability to qualify as literary quality or compelling drama, there is a simple sweetness in At Home in Mitford, an innocent warmth that allows readers to imagine themselves in a world where everything always turns out right and there is always pie.