Thursday, December 2, 2010
In the Company of Others
Always many-layered, Ms Karon's books are a cultural feast including music, literature, and art. And they look deeply into the souls of the characters. After dinner one night in Braoghadoon, the Irish inn in which they are staying, Bella plays violin for the guests. "The music came at them abruptly and with such raw force that he was rocked back in his chair. Raging, wounded, feverish music, with the volume of a dozen fiddles at work in the room...The piece ended suddenly. There was a long, stunned silence -- then, an explosion of applause as Bella looked without expression above their heads" (p.138).
Snatches of scripture and theology are woven into conversation in all of her books. To Anna, the innkeeper, during a moment of deep reflection, Father Tim tells her, "A good Scot named George MacDonald said God is impossible to satisfy but easy to please" (p. 99).
And the cuisine in her stories is exquisite! How about Moroccan figs poached in a syrup of ginger and honey with Anna's lemon verbena ice cream? The Orange Marmalade Cake which appears throughout the Mitford series is to die for -- and Father Tim nearly did die from a diabetic coma after eating too much of it! You'll find the recipe for it and other Mitford specialties in Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader.
Ms Karon was about 60 when she began her Mitford series. That's the age Father Tim, the never-married Episcopal priest in Mitford, North Carolina was when we first meet him. It wasn't too long until Cynthia, a children's writer, moved in next door, and that changed everything.
Now, after eight years of marriage, he is still amazed by the wonder of it all:
"There he'd been, tied up at the dock for better than sixty years, the waves occasionally swamping his boat, but safe at harbor, nonetheless. Then she'd moved next door and in no time at all he was unmoored completely. He was terrified of being dashed on the rocks, or adrift on the deep with no way to read the stars of his frightening passion -- he was the old may 'way out at sea in the thrall of a woman who found him romantic and clever. St. Matthew had asked, Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? Ha. He had grown ten feet tall in the first months of his fumbling courtship" (p. 131).
I'll excuse myself now, as I'm feeling thirsty for a sweet sip of soul juice.