Jan Karon has said she writes in order to give readers—even, or perhaps especially, readers who live in Chicago or San Francisco or New York—a small town they can call home. But her novels suggest that she has a more evangelistic goal as well: In every book, one finds sinners saved, hopeless lives redeemed, violent alcoholics, jewel thieves, and reclusive misanthropes praying, "Thank you, God, for loving me, and for sending Your Son to die for my sins. I sincerely repent of my sins, and receive Christ as my personal Savior. Now, as your child, I turn my entire life over to You." At the end of A New Song, Father Tim preaches a sermon to rival those of Billy Graham or Luis Palau.

Karon describes Father Tim's faith as simple and pervasive: "In my books," says Karon, "I try to depict not a glorious faith with celestial fireworks, but a daily faith, a routine faith, a seven-days-a-week faith. … I try to depict how our faith may be woven into our daily life, like brandy poured into coffee. I believe that spirituality needs to be basic, common, everyday."

But Karon's own Christian commitments are more particular than the appealing work-a-day faith she portrays in her novels. The Mitford books are strikingly bereft of anything controversial—no women priests or church wardens, for example, are ever mentioned, nor is the issue that is currently threatening to divide the Episcopal church in America—homosexuality.

Such contentious issues, however, do leap off the page from Karon's interviews, which, occasionally supercilious in tone, suggest that this 11-year Episcopalian has a few axes to grind. She has announced that she does not "care a whit for [the Episcopal church's] slovenly theology," and in "open ...

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