Father Tim Series Continues with a Trip to Ireland, the Past
By Lauren Yarger
Father Tim Kavanagh and his wife Cynthia take a long-anticipated trip to the land of Tim's ancestors in Ireland, but hopes of spending a relaxing vacation reading poetry and scripture while catching up with relatives soon are dashed by an injury, an art theft and discoveries in an old journal in Jan Karon's latest, "In the Company of Others" (Penguin Group, 2010).
Readers of Karon's Mitford series books won't be surprised that Tim finds himself immersed in the lives of the people at the quaint lodge where they stay. There's an ancient rivalry, a love that can't be and a bunch of folks who need help reaching out to each other - all right up the alley of the retired Episcopal priest. When Cynthia sprains an ankle and is confined to her bed, Tim has even more time to befriend the townsfolks and help solve the art theft.
This second in the "Father Tim" series following the successful Mitford series (so-called for the quaint North Carolina town and its inhabitants who come alive in 10 books) has a high calling: to somehow link Father Tim's Mitford past with his new phase of life. The first Father Tim book was excellent, taking the priest, on his own thanks to Cynthia's convenient wayward ankle (it's a break in this one), to his boyhood home in Mississippi where a lot of questions that persisted about Tim and his childhood are answered. It is completely satisfying.
"In the Company of Others" is the first book with Father Tim out on his own, coming to grips with retirement, and the people of County Sligo village become his new "parishioners." We are introduced to all of the folks involved in the present events and intrigue in and near the lodge, discover the characters and intrigue that used to be around the lodge through long passages from the doctor's old journal and keeep up to date with Mitford through phone calls from son Dooley and emails from Tim's former secretary, Esther. It's a lot of people and situations to absorb, so this book probably isn't a good place to jump in to Tim's life. Start in Mitford.
The lives of the present and past Irish folks is interesting, but they don't hold a candle to what Tim experiences. I suspect Mitford fans would have been happy to sit with the Kavanaughs in their room gazing out on the countryside while Cynthia painted and Tim read from one of his favorite books of poetry because reading Karon's insights into people, life and God is like spending quality time with an old and trusted friend. Sans a mystery and other people, there wouldn't have been much of a novel for other readers, though..
Probably the most satisfying subplot involves Tim's reaching out to a lonely, bitter old woman who, spurned by love, makes everyone around her miserable. In typical fashion, we walk along with Tim as he refuses to give in to her moods, won't be discouraged by the defensive wall she has built around herself and consistently offers her friendship to tell her that God and forgiveness are the only way to let go of the past and restore joy in her life.
Readers had a three-year wait inbetween "Home to Holly Springs" and "In the Company of Others." Here's hoping we'll be treated to the next installment soon.
This was actually my favorite of Jan Karon's books. I loved the Mitford series, and just didn't like the first book in the Father Tim series. It was depressing. I almost didn't read this one, but as I got into it, really enjoyed it. I love Ireland. The Irish characters are so real (as the Mitford characters were.) A nice, well-written story.