In the very first Mitford book, At Home in Mitford, a young boy who has been deserted by his alcoholic mother and left to the care of his aging grandfather ends up on Father Tim’s doorstep. Father Tim later becomes the guardian of Dooley Barlow, and over the several Mitford books we’ve seen Dooley transformed from a surly, standoffish, hurt boy to a kind, thoughtful, responsible young man, due to the grace of God shown largely through Father Tim’s care, instruction, and example and Miss Sadie’s investment and belief in him. Now in Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon, Dooley is about to graduate from vet school, take over his mentor Hal Owens’ vet practice and farm, add some heifers and a bull to the mix…and get married, all within the space of a few weeks’ time.
Dooley and his fiance, Lace Harper, have planned on a simple country wedding. But no wedding is simple, and there are various snafus one might expect and a few no one expected.
I don’t want to spoil any of the details of the story, but, as often happens at weddings, there is a bit of a reunion with several characters, and sweet and tender moments arise in the midst of the details and hecticness.
I don’t think it is too much of a spoiler to say that at the end of the last Mitford book, Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good, it seemed like there was a definite passing of the torch from Father Tim to Dooley as a main character, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I’ve been interested in Dooley’s welfare and liked him well enough, but I read the Mitford books for Father Tim. But Father Tim is still a large presence in the book and still a main character, though of course the emphasis is on Dooley at this point.
The book is written from multiple points of view, which I enjoy: I like knowing what the various characters are thinking and what an incident looks like through various eyes. The only problem in this case is that, in listening to the audiobook, there were not any pauses or spacing between sections, so often I didn’t realize the “he” or “she” or “they” had changed to different characters until a few sentences into a new paragraph.
I particularly liked getting to know Lace a little better. She first appeared in These High Green Hills as an abused child, and we saw her adopted by town doctor Hoppy Harper and his wife Olivia. As she got older, she and Dooley went to different schools and had a rather stormy beginning, but we haven’t really seen much of her character and particularly what she has been thinking. I liked that she noted that people often said she and Dooley were so much alike, but it was actually their situations that were alike, though their personalities were quite different. I enjoyed getting to know Lace as a person and seeing some of those differences fleshed out more in this book.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to listen to the audiobook of this one: I enjoyed going through the audiobook series of most of the other books, wonderfully narrated by John McDonough, but I had read them all previously, so listening was a nice way to revisit them. I wanted the reading experience first with this one. But as I already had several books on my reading plate and knew I wouldn’t get to it for a while that way, and I had credits with Audible, I decided to go ahead, and I am glad I did.
The only aspect of the book that was jarring and out of place was one character’s taking God’s name in vain a couple of times. I don’t remember Karon ever including that in one of her books, though perhaps my memory is just faulty.
I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite quotes from the book:
“You could tell a lot about people who would stop what they were doing to watch the Almighty go about His business” (said as several stopped to watch a beautiful sunset, Chapter 14).
“There is no such thing as too many deviled eggs” (Chapter 10) (Agreed!)
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)