Father Tim Kavanagh has been asked to “come up higher” more than once. But he’s never been asked to do the impossible—until now. The retired Episcopal priest takes on the revival of a mountain church that’s been closed for forty years. Meanwhile, in Mitford, he’s sent on a hunt for hidden treasure, and two beloved friends are called to come up higher as well. As Father Tim finds, there are still plenty of heartfelt surprises, dear friends old and new, and the most important lesson of all: It’s never too late.
About the Author
Jan wrote her first novel at the age of ten. "The manuscript was written on Blue Horse notebook paper, and was, for good reason, kept hidden from my sister. When she found it, she discovered the one curse word I had, with pounding heart, included in someone's speech. For Pete's sake, hadn't Rhett Butler used that very same word and gotten away with it? After my grandmother's exceedingly focused reproof, I've written books without cussin' ever since."
Several years ago, Karon left a successful career in advertising to move to the mountain village of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and write books. "I stepped out on faith to follow my lifelong dream of being an author," she says. "I made real sacrifices and took big risks. But living, it seems to me, is largely about risk."
Enthusiastic booksellers across the country have introduced readers of all ages to Karon's heartwarming books. At Home in Mitford, Karon's first book in the Mitford series, was nominated for an ABBY by the American Booksellers Association in 1996 and again in 1997. Bookstore owner, Shirley Sprinkle, says, "The Mitford Books have been our all-time fiction bestsellers since we went in business twenty-five years ago. We've sold 10,000 of Jan's books and don't see any end to the Mitford phenomenon."
Hometown:Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Date of Birth:1937
Place of Birth:Lenoir, North Carolina
Read an Excerpt
A Winter Eden
The first flake landed on a blackberry bush in the creek bottom of Meadowgate Farm. In the frozen hour before dawn, others found their mark on the mossy roof of the smokehouse; in a grove of laurel by the northwest pasture; on the handle of a hoe left propped against the garden fence.
Close by the pond in the sheep paddock, a buck, a doe, and two fawns stood motionless as an owl pushed off from the upper branches of a pine tree and sailed, silent and intent, to the ridge of the barn roof.
The owl hooted once, then twice.
As if summoned by its velveteen cry, the platinum moon broke suddenly from the clouds above the pond, transforming the water's surface into a gleaming lake of molten pearl. Then, clouds sailed again over the face of the moon, and in the bitter darkness, snowflakes fell thick and fast, swirling as in a shaken globe.
It was twelve minutes after six o'clock when a gray light rose above the brow of Hogback Mountain, exposing an imprint of tractor tires that linked Meadowgate's hay barn to the cow pasture and sheep paddock. The imprints of work boots and dog paws were also traceable along the driveway to the barn, and back to the door of the farmhouse, where smoke puffed from the chimney and lamplight shone behind the kitchen windows.
From a tulip poplar at the northeast corner to the steel stake at the southwest, all hundred and thirty acres of Meadowgate Farm lay under a powdery blanket of March snow.
Cynthia Kavanagh stood in the warmth of the farmhouse kitchen in a chenille robe, and gazed out on the hushed landscape.
"It makes everything innocent again," she said. "A winter Eden."
At the pine table, Father Timothy Kavanagh leafed through his quote journal until he found the record he'd jotted down. "Unbelievable! We've had snow one, two, three, four ... this is the fifth time since Christmas Eve."
"Snow, snow, and more snow!"
"Not to mention dogs, dogs, and more dogs! It looks like somebody backed up to the door and dumped a truckload of canines in here."
Following his customary daylight romp, Barnabas, a Bouvier-wolfhound mix and his boon companion of ten years, was drowned in slumber on the hearth rug; Buckwheat, an English foxhound grown long in the tooth, had draped herself over the arm of the sofa; the Welsh corgi, aptly named Bodacious, snored in a wing chair she had long ago claimed as her own; and Luther, a recent, mixed-breed addition to the Meadowgate pack, had slung himself onto his bed in the corner, belly up. There was a collective odor of steam rising from sodden dog hair. "Ugh!" said his wife, who was accustomed to steam rising off only one wet dog.
Father Tim looked up from the journal in which he was transcribing notes collected hither and yon. "So what are you doing today, Kavanagh?"
Cynthia mashed the plunger of the French coffee press. "I'm doing the sketch of Violet looking out the kitchen window to the barn, and I'm calling Puny to find out about the twins-they're days late, you know."
"Good idea. Expected around March fourth or fifth, and here it is the fourteenth. They'll be ready for kindergarten."
"And you must run to Mitford with the shopping list for Dooley's homecoming dinner tomorrow."
"Consider it done."
His heart beat faster at the thought of having their boy home for spring break, but the further thought of having nothing more to accomplish than a run to The Local was definitely discouraging. Heaven knows, there was hardly anything to do on the farm but rest, read, and walk four dogs; he'd scarcely struck a lick at a snake since arriving in mid-January. Willie Mullis, a full-timer who'd replaced the part-time Bo Davis, lived on the place and did all the odd jobs, feeding up and looking after livestock; Joyce Havner did the laundry and cleaning, as she'd done at Meadowgate for years; Blake Eddistoe ran the vet clinic, only a few yards from the farmhouse door, with consummate efficiency; there was even someone to bush hog and cut hay when the season rolled around.
In truth, it seemed his main occupation since coming to farm-sit for the Owens was waiting to hear from his bishop, Stuart Cullen, who had e-mailed him before Christmas.
* Heads up:
* I will almost certainly have something for you early next year. As you might expect, it isn't anything fancy, and God knows, it will be a challenge. Yet I admit I'm patently envious.
* Can't say more at this time, but will be in touch after the holy days, and we shall see what's what (I do recall, by the way, that you're spending next year at the Owens' farm, and this would not be a conflict).
He had scratched his head throughout the month of January, trying to reckon what the challenge might be. In February, he'd called Stuart, attempting to gouge it out of him, but Stuart had asked for another couple of weeks to get the plan together before he spilled the beans.
Now, here they were in the middle of March, and not a word.
"You're sighing, Timothy."
"Wondering when Stuart will get off the pot."
"He's retiring in June and consecrating the cathedral-altogether, a great deal to say grace over. You'll hear soon, dearest."
She handed him a mug of black coffee, which he took with gratitude.
So here he sat, retired from nearly four decades of active ministry as a priest, toasting himself by an open fire with his good-humored and companionable wife of seven years, and situated in what he believed to be the most breathtakingly beautiful countryside in America.
Why bother, after all, about some "challenge" that may or may not be coming. Hadn't he had challenges enough to last him a lifetime?
His wife, on the other hand, was ever drumming up a challenge. During their year at the farm, conveniently located twenty minutes from Mitford, she'd decided to accomplish three lifetime goals: learn needlepoint, make perfect oven fries, and read War and Peace.
"So how's it coming with War and Peace?"
"I despise telling you this, but I haven't opened it once. I'm reading a charming old book called Mrs. Miniver."
"And the fries?"
"Since Dooley comes tomorrow, I'll be conducting my next experiment-to see whether soaking the potatoes in ice water will make them crispier. And I'm definitely using peanut oil this time."
"I'll peel and cut," he said. He hadn't seen any activity around the needlepoint plan, so he declined to mention it.
"Pathetic," she said, reading his mind. "I'm all thumbs. Learning from a book is not the way to do it. I've decided to let Olivia tutor me, if she has a free day now and then. Besides, having lunch with someone who also wears eye shadow might be fun."
"I'm definitely a dud in the eye shadow department."
She thumped into the wing chair opposite him and took a sip from her coffee mug. "And what about you, dearest? Have you accomplished all your lifetime goals?"
Oddly, the question stung him. "I suppose I haven't thought about it." Maybe he hadn't wanted to think about having any further goals.
He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the back of the wing chair. "I believe if I were charged with having a goal, it would be to live without fretting-to live more fully in the moment, not always huffing about as I've done in recent years ... to live humbly-and appreciatively-with whatever God furnishes."
He reflected for a moment and raised his head and looked at her. "Yes. That would be my goal."
"But aren't you doing that?"
"No. I feel obligated to get out there, to open myself to some new and worthwhile service. I've been a bump on a log these last weeks."
"It's OK to be a bump on a log once in a while. 'Be still,' He tells us, 'and know that I am God.' We must learn to wait on Him, Timothy. All those years of preaching and celebrating, and doing the interim at Whitecap-what a lovely legacy God allowed you to have there; and ministering to Louella and Miss Sadie and Helene Pringle and Morris Love and George Gaynor and Edith Mallory and the Leepers ..." She took a deep breath. "On and on, an entire community, for heaven's sake, not to mention volunteering at the Children's Hospital and rounding up Dooley's little sister and brothers ..."
"One brother still missing," he said, "and what have I done about it?"
"There may be nothing you can do about it. There's absolutely nothing to go on, no leads of any kind. Maybe God alone can do something about it. Perhaps Kenny is God's job."
The fire crackled on the hearth; the dogs snored.
His wife had just preached him a sermon, and it was one he needed to hear. He had a mate who knew precisely what was what, especially when he didn't.
"'Let us then be up and doing,'" he quoted from Wordsworth, "'with a heart for any fate!' Where's the grocery list?"
"In my head at present, but let's get it out." She opened the small drawer in the lamp table and removed her notebook and pen.
"Steak!" She scribbled. "Same old cut?"
"Same old, same old. New York strip." This would be no Lenten fast, but a Lenten feast for a starving college boy who was seldom home.
"Russet potatoes," she said, continuing the litany.
"Always best for fries." His blood would soon get up for this cookathon, even if he couldn't eat much on the menu. While some theologians construed St. Paul's thorn to be any one of a variety of alarming dysfunctions, he'd been convinced for years that it was the same blasted affliction he'd ended up with-diabetes.
"Pie crusts," she said, scribbling on. "Oh, rats. For the life of me, I can't remember all the ingredients for his chocolate pie, and of course, I didn't bring my recipe box."
"I never liked the recipe we use," he said, suddenly confessional.
"You're not supposed to even touch chocolate pie, Timothy, so what difference does it make? Dooley loves it; it isn't half bad, really."
"It needs something."
"Something more ... you know."
His wife loved whipped cream; with the slenderest of excuses, she would slather it on anything.
"Not whipped cream. Something more like ..." He threw up his hands; his culinary imagination had lately flown south.
"Meringue!" he said, slapping his leg. "That's it!"
She bolted from her chair and trotted to the kitchen counter. "Marge's recipe box ... I was thumbing through it the other day and I vaguely remember ... Let's see ... Onions in Cream Sauce, Penne Pasta with Lump Crabmeat, that sounds good...."
"Buttermilk Pie ... Vinegar Pie ... Fresh Coconut ..."
"Mark that one!"
"Egg Custard ... Fresh Peach ... Deep-Dish Apple ..."
"Enough," he said. "I'm only human."
"Here it is. Chocolate Pie with Meringue."
"Finish that list, Kavanagh, and I'm out of here."
Ha! He'd denied himself as sternly as one of the Desert Fathers these last weeks; he would have the tiniest sliver of that pie, or else ...
"I know what you're thinking," she said.
He pulled on his jacket and foraged in the pockets for his knit cap, and kissed her warm mouth.
"You always know what I'm thinking," he said.
His hand was on the doorknob when the phone rang.
"Do try to find a haircut while you're in town," she said, picking up the receiver.
"You've got that John-the-Baptist look again. Hello! Meadowgate Farm."
He watched her pause, listening, then grin from ear to ear.
"Thanks for calling, Joe Joe. That's wonderful! Congratulations! Give Puny our love. I'll be over on Thursday. Timothy's headed into Mitford now, I'm sure he'll stop by."
"So?" he asked, excited as a kid.
"Boys! Weighing in at fifteen pounds total! Thomas and ..." She paused, and looked all-knowing.
"Thomas and Timothy!"
"Yes! One named for Puny's grandfather and one named for you. Now there are two little boys in this world who're named for you, and I hope you realize that people don't go around naming little boys for a bump on a log."
Boys! And because Puny's father was long deceased, he would be their granpaw, just as he was granpaw to Puny and Joe Joe's twin girls.
His entire chest felt suffused with a warm and radiating light.
He turned onto the state road, which had already been scraped for the school buses, and headed south past the Baptist church and its snow-covered brush arbor. He glanced at the wayside pulpit, which was changed weekly.
if loving god were a crime, would you be in jail?
Getting around was a piece of cake. The heavens had given them only a couple of inches, and in a farm truck built like a tank, he felt safe and thoroughly above it all.
Patently envious. Patently envious. What could a bigwig bishop, albeit his oldest friend, envy in a country parson? There it was again, the tape running in a loop and promising to work his mind into a lather.
"I roll this whole mystery over to You, Lord," he said aloud, "and thank You for this day!"
In truth, the whole day belonged to him. He would stop by the hospital to see Puny and her new brood; he would run over to Hope House and visit Louella; he would make a noon stop at Lew Boyd's Exxon where the Turkey Club was lately convening; he would have a chin-wag with Avis at The Local....
As for getting a haircut, he had no intention of trusting his balding head to Fancy Skinner ever again, period; Joe Ivy had retired from cutting hair and wanted nothing more to do with such a trade; trooping to the barber shop in Wesley would take too much time. So, no, indeed, absolutely not, there would be no haircut on this trip into civilization. The sun broke through leaden clouds and flooded the countryside with a welcome light.
"Yee hah!" he shouted against the considerable din of the truck engine. Why had he felt so bereft and grumpy only a half hour before, when he was now beginning to feel like a new man?
He switched on the radio to the blast of a country music station; it was golden oldies time.
"I bought th' shoes that just walked out on me...." someone sang. He sang along, hardly caring that he didn't know the words.
"Country come to town!" he whooped as he drove into Mitford.
Roaring past the Exxon station, he blew the horn twice, just to let the general public know he'd arrived.
He bent and kissed her forehead.
"Well done," he said, a lump in his throat. Two sets of twins! May God have mercy.... "They're whoppers," she said, smiling up at him.
His so-called house help of ten years, and the one whom he loved like a daughter, lay worn but beaming in the hospital bed.
He took her hand, feeling the rough palm that had come from years of scrubbing, polishing, cooking, washing, ironing, and generally making his life and Cynthia's far simpler, not to mention indisputably brighter. "Thank you for naming one of your fine boys after this old parson."
"We won't call 'im by th' fancy name. It'll jis' be Timmy."
"Timmy. I always liked it when Mother called me Timmy."
"Timmy an' Tommy," she said, proudly.
"Timmy and Tommy and Sissy and Sassy."
"You'll be the boys' granpaw, too," she said, in case he hadn't considered this.
"It'll be an honor to be their granpaw."
Since he'd officiated at her wedding several years ago, she had taken to calling him by his priestly title in a way that subtly claimed him as her true father. He never failed to note this. Blast, if he wasn't about to bawl like baby. "Yes, my dear?"
"I sure do love you and Cynthy."
There they came, rolling down his cheeks like a veritable gulley washer....
"And we sure do love you back," he croaked.
"So, how's the food at Hope House these days?"
He sat on the footstool by Louella's rocking chair, feeling roughly eight or ten years old, as he always had in the presence of Miss Sadie and Louella.
"Oh, honey, some time it's good, some time it ain't fit for slop." He noted that Louella said ain't now that Miss Sadie, who forbade its use, had passed on. "You take th' soup-th' menu has th' same ol' soup on it every day, day after day, long as I been here." She looked thoroughly disgusted.
"What soup is that?"
"Soup du jour! If they cain't come up with more'n one soup in this high-dollar outfit, I ain't messin' with it."
"Aha," he said.
"My granmaw, Big Mama, said soup was for sick people, anyway, an' I ain't sick an' ain't plannin' to be."
"That's the spirit."
Louella rocked on. The warm room, the lowering clouds beyond the window, and the faint drone of the shopping network made him drowsy; his eyelids drooped....
Louella suddenly stopped rocking. "I been meanin' to ask-what you doin' 'bout Miss Sadie's money?"
He snapped to attention. "What money is that?"
"Don't you remember? I tol' you 'bout th' money she hid in that ol' car."
"Old car," he said, clueless.
"In that ol' Plymouth automobile she had." Louella appeared positively vexed with him.
"Louella, I don't have any idea what you mean."
"Your mem'ry must be goin', honey."
"Why don't you tell me everything, from the beginning."
"Seem like I called you up an' tol' you, but maybe I dreamed it. Do you ever dream somethin' so real you think it happened?"
"A while before she passed, Miss Sadie got mad 'bout th' market fallin' off. You know she made good money in that market."
"Yes, ma'am, she did." Hadn't she left Dooley Barlowe a cool million plus at her passing? This extraordinary fact, however, was not yet known to Dooley.
Reading Group Guide
Come away to Mitford, the small town that takes care of its own. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Mitford is a crazy quilt of saints and sinners — lovable eccentrics all. Seen through the eyes of Father Tim, the long-suffering Village Rector, Mitford abounds in both mysteries and miracles, compelling readers to return again and again to this beloved series.
In the tradition of James Herriot, Bailey White, and Garrison Keillor, author Jan Karon brilliantly captures the foibles and delights of a hilarious cast of characters.
Book IX: As Light from Heaven opens, Father Tim Kavanagh still isn’t taking kindly to retirement. Even though being in a new environment like Meadowgate Farms is a breath of fresh air, he still feels like life is passing him by. So when Bishop Cullen at last reveals Father Tim’s new assignment, he is ready to jump in with both feet. But getting Holy Trinity, the long-neglected mountain chapel, up and running is sure to be more work than he can say grace over—especially since a new deadline will make it nearly impossible for Cynthia to help.
But Father Tim’s prayers are heard and answered in the form of Agnes Merton and her son, Clarence. Over the years, they have kept Holy Trinity in remarkably good shape. Other than a few broken windows and a minor amount of vandalism, the chapel is ready to open its doors to worshippers. So with Agnes along for the ride, Father Tim pulls together a hungry and imperfect congregation.
Shining brighter than ever and buoyed by his new calling, Father Tim is a beacon of faith not only for his new flock, but also for the beloved citizens of Mitford and, once again, for a child desperate for the warmth of a loving home. And as spring finally takes root in the mountains, God makes His presence known in daily miracles small and large. Grieving hearts are soothed with laughter. A young woman is healed. A wayward soul finds the acceptance he has so desperately sought. And a simple truth emerges from an unexpected source: indeed, God is good.
ABOUT JAN KARON
Jan Karon was born in Lenoir, North Carolina, in 1937 ("A great year for the Packard automobile," she says). Her creative skills first came alive when her family moved to a farm. "On the farm there is time to muse and dream," she says. "I am endlessly grateful I was reared in the country. As a young girl I couldn't wait to get off that farm, to go to Hollywood or New York. But living in those confined, bucolic circumstances was one of the best things that ever happened to me."
Jan knew that she wanted to be a writer, and even wrote a novel at the age of ten. Her first real opportunity as a writer came at age eighteen when she took a job as a receptionist at an ad agency. She kept leaving her writing on her boss's desk until he noticed her ability. Soon she was launched on a forty-year career in advertising. She won assignments in New York and San Francisco, numerous awards, and finally an executive position with a national agency.
Recently she left advertising to write books, and moved to Blowing Rock, North Carolina, a tiny town of 1,800 perched at 5,000 feet in the Blue Ridge mountains. "I immediately responded to the culture of village life," says Jan. "And I must say the people welcomed me. I have never felt so at home."
Blowing Rock is the model for Mitford, and the similarities are strong. "None of the people in Mitford are actually based upon anyone in Blowing Rock," says Jan. "Yet, the spirit of my characters is found throughout this real-life village. You can walk into Sonny's Grill in Blowing Rock and find the same kind of guys who hang around Mitford's Main Street Grill."
Jan is quick to assert that there are Mitfords all over the country, those hundreds of towns where readers of Jan's books cherish their own cast of eccentric and beloved characters. Currently, one of Jan's chief delights is getting to meet those readers. "Some people finish writing and open a bottle of scotch or a box of chocolates," she says. "My reward is meeting my readers face-to-face. I think an author is something like a glorified bartender. My readers tell me all kinds of things about their lives, and I get these long, long letters. I answer every one, of course."
Jan has a daughter, Candace Freeland, who is a photojournalist and musician.
AN INTERVIEW WITH JAN KARON
You write about the small town of Mitford, yet haven't you spent most of your life in cities?
Until I was twelve I lived in the country, then I spent many years in cities. I think that I was born with a kind of deep affinity for the rural, the rustic. In addition, I'm very drawn to the pastoral novels of the English genre — the village novel where a small group is used to paint a picture of a larger society.
I still have in me a great love for the agrarian — for what this country was, for what we still are. People say, "Oh well, I guess there's no such thing as Mitford." Well, the good news is there are Mitfords all over the country, and there are still great stretches of open land and pastures and meadows and fields. It's not all bad news. There's so much left of this country that is reasonable and moral and strong. And that's the part I relate to.
You've often said how important a rural upbringing was for you. How has it influenced your writing?
On the farm there were long passages of time in which to observe. The senses are very important to me, and I try to bring the experience of the senses into my writing. And life on the farm is very graphic. Calves are dropped, colts are foaled, manure lies steaming in the sun. It's the bottom line of what life is about.
Mitford is packed with delightful characters like Dooley, Miss Rose, Emma, Miss Sadie, and Homeless Hobbes. Where do they all come from?
Darned if I know. My characters walk in and introduce themselves to me and I'm stuck with them. When I first moved to Blowing Rock to write a book, I struggled hard to write according to the outline I came here with, but the book never worked. The characters never got off the page. That was a real defeat for me. "Woman's dream turns to nightmare," I thought. "I don't know how to write a book!"
Then one night in my mind's eye I saw an Episcopal priest walking down the street. I decided to follow him and see where he went. Well, he went to a dog named Barnabas, they went to a boy named Dooley, and the story unfolded before me. Instead of me driving the story, the story began to drive me! I got interested, wrote a couple of chapters, and there you have it.
How much do you personally relate to Father Tim? Are you very much like him?
Father Tim's personality is far more conservative than mine, but like Father Tim, I don't know a great deal about having fun. If I get dragged into it, I can always enjoy it, but it's hard for me to go out and find it on my own. And of course we both share a faith. My books are formed on my connection to God. That's the seasoning in the stew.
How would you describe the nature of that faith?
In my books I try to depict not a glorious faith with celestial fireworks, but a daily faith, a routine faith, a seven-days-a-week faith. Father Tim's faith is part of his everyday life. He has simple prayers, not polished, pious prayers. He follows the Apostle Paul's command that we pray without ceasing. 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.
Father Tim seems in the thick of things whether he wants to be or not. How does this affect him?
In the first book, At Home in Mitford, he lived a very quiet life. In the subsequent books we are able to see far more of Father Tim's humanity because he is surrounded by people. That means that his heart is going to be broken and his patience is going to be stretched — all of the things that happen when we get involved with other people. This has made him a much more human figure.
Father Tim is very heroic but he does grand things in such a quiet way that he doesn't assume the proportions of a hero. I think Father Tim is somebody who's into recycling and restoring people. It comes from two places inside of him. First of all, it comes from that place where he was so deeply wounded in his relationship with his father. He is in a sense recycling himself; he's still trying to heal himself. And second, he operates on the fuel, the steam that comes from his relationship with Jesus Christ. But he's definitely into reclamation, recycling, helping people find the way — which is what Jesus is all about. So I suppose that Father Tim is a type of Christ figure — not just because he is a preacher but because of the way he is constructed.
In Out to Canaan, Father Tim lives in a chaotic household. Did you grow up in such a household?
No, I didn't. I've lived a fairly ordered life. Being a writer requires a lot of solitude. I've not lived like that, but I've always looked toward those households with a certain longing.
Where do you write?
My studio stretches across the back of my little house. It has eight windows that look out on a copse of trees. I can see the blue outline of the mountains in the distance. Where I write is exceedingly important to me. I am never comfortable unless I am in a room that pleases me. I need the pictures on the wall to be hanging straight. I have to do my housekeeping before I can sit down at the computer. Things need to be in order in my mind and in the place where I write. In recent months my life has been topsy-turvy. I have learned to write with utter chaos all around me. I turn to my book with great intensity. Sometimes I may write twelve hours a day. Sometimes I can write only two hours a day.
Do you have any conscious technique that so effectively makes Mitford come alive for people?
I grew up in the era of radio. When you turned on the radio, you heard the voices and you filled in all the blanks. Radio helped me become a writer. Television would never help me become a writer. With radio you have to color in everything. What you need to do for readers is give them as much free rein as they can take. Let them participate in the story by building their own imagery.
So conversations and characters bear the burden of telling the story?
My books are about relationships. With rare exceptions, the scenes are all one-on-one relationships: Father Tim and Dooley, Father Tim and Cynthia, Father Tim and Emma. There are times when I step away to the Grill where three or four people are in a relationship. Basically, I try not to waste the reader's time with descriptive narrative, details of what people are wearing, how they look, how tall they are.
You seem to have a lot of lovable eccentrics in your books. Are you attracted to unusual people?
I see everyone as unusual. Most everyone seems to have an extraordinary life story. "I just love people," was my grandmother's saying. Casting the writer's light on ordinary people makes them appear extraordinary.
- Father Tim has rather unsavory encounter with a man who’s set up rustic housekeeping on Meadowgate Farm. Were you surprised at the way Father Tim treated the trespasser? When is a person beyond forgiveness? On their second chance? Third? Fourth? What are some actions that are, despite Jesus’s teachings, unforgivable by mere humans?
- The Flower sisters are an interesting group to say the least. What are the commonalities you share with your siblings or other close family members? And what differences?
- There are examples in Light from Heaven of people dealing with grief in unexpected ways. Father Tim hopes a series of jokes will make the perfect eulogy. Esther Bolick throws herself into baking to help her through the grieving process. What interesting sendoffs have you seen in your own life for departed friends or loved ones? Do you have unusual ways of dealing with sadness?
- Do you think Sammy is going to become as well-adjusted as Dooley? Why? How are the two brothers similar? How are they different?
- Cynthia always has an answer to the question “what don’t you love?” Make a list of things you don’t love. Now do the same with things you do love. Which list is longer? Which was easier to compile?
- Louella tells a story about her and Miss Sadie’s brief quarrel over a box of chocolates. Miss Sadie wants to save them but decides it would be better to go ahead and enjoy them. What treats or special experiences in your life have you saved for a later time, only to wish, when the time comes, that you had gone ahead and enjoyed them sooner?
- Rooter wants to learn sign language so he can talk to Clarence. Using the Internet or a book, teach yourself a few signs to share with the group. Father Tim employs a similar strategy in his knack for talking to just about anyone on his or her own level. How is Father Tim different when talking to Agnes versus Jubal?