A Light in the Window is the second book in the Mitford series by Jan Karon, and the second I have listened to narrated wonderfully by John McDonough.
In the last book, At Home in Mitford, Father Tim, a 60 year old Episcopalian priest, realizes he is attracted to his neighbor, Cynthia. Most of this book is his struggle to come to terms with what that means and how far he wants the relationship to go. He had thought he would be a lifelong bachelor, so he was surprised for love to come to him at this stage of life, plus he’s highly introverted, “set in his ways,” “buttoned-down,” fearful by nature, and not at all sure if he would even be capable of giving of himself in the way a marriage would require.
One section in his ponderings really stood out to me:
Was he willing to blend into the life of another human being for the rest of his days, and have hers blend into his? That, of course, was the Bible’s bottom line on marriage: one flesh. Not separate entities, not two autonomous beings merely coming together at dinnertime or brushing past one another in the hallway, holding on to their singleness, guarding against invasion. One flesh! (p. 207).
The phrase “guarding against invasion” particularly struck me. I still have that tendency sometimes and have to remind myself that love means being open to others.
Their relationship is strained when another town widow sets her sights for him, Cynthia has to go to New York to work on her newest book, and they have a series of misunderstandings. It’s further strained when Cynthia is ready for further commitment to their relationship and can’t understand his hesitancy. In all honesty, I felt she was a little pushy in some places, and I felt she just needed to give him time and let him lead in the relationship. But the underlying thought amongst his friends seems to be that without a little pushing, he’d never move forward.
Among several subplots is Father Tim’s cousin Meg from Ireland coming to visit, proving to be every bit as eccentric as some of Mitford’s other characters; Miss Sadie’s desire to provide for Dooley Barlow, the boy under Father Tim’s care, with better schooling out of town; the danger that his favorite (and the town’s only) restaurant will be shut down; and a very abrasive, rough around the edges construction supervisor in charge of the nursing home being built with Miss Sadie’s donated money.
My only real objection with this book in the series is a number of references to something or other being s*xy, even a “Better Than S*x Cake” (disguising the words not because I am a prude but to avoid certain kinds of searches ending up here and certain over-sensitive filters blocking this post). There is nothing explicit, and by comparison to other books it’s quite tame, but still, I didn’t think even this needed to be tossed in the mix.
As with the first book in the series, I don’t think this was written and marketed as “Christian fiction,” but there is Scriptural truth throughout. This was another enjoyable visit with Father Tim and the Mitford residents.
(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)