It’s hard to believe that Lauren Winner, an intellectual, witty, fast-paced non-traditional traditionalist would love, love, love Jan Karon’s Mitford Series, but she does. After reading and respecting Winner’s Girl Meets God, Real Sex, and Mudhouse Sabbath, I began to consider reading this fictional series that she refers to so often. Sad to say, I’m highly suspicious of Christian fiction, so I had big doubts about the quality of this best-selling series. When a very dear friend told me that she love, love, loves them, too, I decided that I better cozy up and mozy into Mitford, too.
I’ve only read At Home in Mitford, the first book in the series, and have recently begun the second, but while your Christmas list is being written or your library card is being dusted off for the winter months, I do want to let you know that these books are well worth your while. For me, the two most valuable qualities of Karon’s books are…
* the kindness and intimacy between characters. Hanging out with folks who visit just for the sake of visiting is good medicine for me. I’ve recently faced my subconscious belief that no one really wants to spend time with anyone else; we all just use each other to get our check lists completed, don’t we? (An ugly thing to dig up in one’s subconscious, wouldn’t you agree?!) My capacity for simply enjoying another person’s company and believing that another person could enjoy mine had dwindled so drastically that reading about people who spend most of their time doing just this was deeply challenging. Life could actually be this way? I wondered as I sat through gorgeously intimate tea times and meetings and meals with the Mitford folks.
* the slowness of time. No one in Mitford is in a hurry. Even Jan Karon seems to have all of the time in the world to wait for her characters to reveal themselves. The cars are slow. The meals are slow. The relationships (especially the romantic ones) are even slower. But Karon’s intentionality in holding back the reigns of time is so refreshing and so smart that a check-list, high-paced, achievement-loving reader like myself feels impulsive, impatient, and uncontrolled in her company (a healthy conviction these days).
So, when I enter Mitford, I do so without my old reliable speed-reading crutches: I don’t underline or use a pen or include the next chapter on my “to do” list. I take my time to love the characters and learn from their compassion and priorities. Reading one of Karon’s books is like holding a good long stretch for a good long time. Ah, it feels so good to loosen up these taut muscles and remember what loving people could really be like.