Friday, November 5, 2010

In the Company of Others by Jan Karon

Funny, after yesterday's post about my penchant for fast-moving thrillers, that this would be the next book I finish.  You couldn't possibly find a book that is a more polar opposite.  USA Today described it as "lovely", and that sums it up. 

Father Tim and Cynthia arrive in the west of Ireland, intent on researching his Kavanagh ancestry from the comfort of a charming fishing lodge. The charm, however, is broken entirely when Cynthia startles a burglar and sprains her already-injured ankle. Then a cherished and valuable painting is stolen from the lodge owners, and Cynthia's pain pales in comparison to the wound at the center of this bitterly estranged Irish family.
The publisher's synopsis makes the story sound like a mystery, but the thefts are secondary.  The primary focus is the human drama - relationships, fractured for decades, between family members, and between man and God. 

When Father Tim and Cynthia Kavanagh are stranded at the remote lodge in Ireland by the injury to Cynthia's ankle, they slowly become immersed in the regrets and secrets that surround three generations of the Conor family. The present-day story is mixed with sections of the 1860's diary of Fintan O'Donnell, which Tim and Cynthia discover in the lodge's library and in which they become absorbed.  In their typical soft-spoken, compassionate manner, the Kavanaghs steer the Conor family toward reconciliation.

Several reader reviews referred to this book as "boring" or "disappointing".  I disagree. Although it was certainly a change of pace, both from my recent reading choices and the Mitford series, I saw it as a slow stroll - through the Irish countryside, through history, through unhurried vacation days, through complicated relationships.  Read it when you have time to sit a spell and be immersed.  I'll admit I struggled with the historic sections from time to time and I took frequent breaks to read something else, but when it all wrapped up so beautifully at the end, I was glad I made the effort. 

If you have never read the Mitford series or the previous Father Tim novel, you probably don't want to start with this one.  It helps to get to know the more light-hearted, easier- reading Father Tim and the characters of Mitford before delving into this second, deeper series.  Jan Karon says "Of all the novels I've written, In the Company of Others is my personal favorite."  That's easy to understand.  This is not cookie-cutter, commercial fiction - this is a personal, inspiring story.


  1. I'm glad I read your review before getting the book. I've read several of the Mitford books and none of the Father Tim ones. Your review has me itching to take that "stroll through the Irish countryside." I will take a deep breath and go back and catch up on some of the others first. Might be a nice winter project with a treat at the end.

  2. I never read any of the Mitford series but they are so everpresent that I feel that I should. Thanks for the tip on where to start with them.

  3. I never read any of these either, but that is simply a gorgeous cover.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.