As I savor Jan Karon's latest novel, Home to Holly Springs, I am reminded of my mother. As a girl, she read Hugh Lofting's Doctor Dolittle novels with glee. When, in 1948, Doctor Dolittle and the Secret Lake, the final novel in the series, was published, she read it, and after turning the last page, wept, because never again would there be new stories about the doctor who could talk to animals. (Actually, two more books about the good doctor were later published; they were collections of pieces Lofting had written years before for the New York Herald Tribune.)

I felt something similar last year when I read the final installment of Karon's Mitford novels. These stories of Father Timothy Kavanaugh, an Episcopal priest in western North Carolina, and his neighbors are very dear to me. The first two Mitford novels, At Home in Mitford and A Light in the Window, were critical in my conversion to Christianity. I always relished my trips to Mitford, a town in which (admittedly fictional) people seem to live in real community with one another, and a town whose inhabitants exemplify many of the fruits and struggles of gospel-living.

I have learned a lot about how to pray and how to deal with both my passions and my enemies from Karon's novels. I always enjoyed the slightly painful year of waiting for a new Mitford novel to hit the shelves. I even bought and annually read aloud the short gift books Karon wrote about Christmas in Mitford, and I have made the delicious macaroni and cheese in Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader. One night last July, when I had insomnia, I really did pull out The Mitford Bedside Companion and do the crossword. I am, in short, a devotee.

So like my mother, I felt a bit bereft when I read Light from ...

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