Home to Holly Springs

Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon, read by Scott Sowers

Home to Holly Springs is new territory and a new style sheet for Jan Karon.  When I first listened, I thought she had read this article contrasting her Mitford (a bit unfavorably) with Wendell Berry’s Port William and salted her prose accordingly. 

In the first Father Tim book, our dear retired Anglican priest goes back to his home town in Mississippi and faces some of the demons from his earlier life.  We already know from the Mitford books that Father Tim’s relationship with his father was problematic, at best.  Father Tim had never been back since the death of his mother, effectively ditching all the relationships which were established in his youth.  One by one he searches out the people whose influence had molded his life. 

I loved the cadences of Timothy Cavanaugh’s conversations with strangers and with old friends.  Karon captured the charm, the contrariness and the cheesiness of her Southern clerks, old ladies and ground hog hunters. 

Father Tim comes face to face with two women with the same first name; both women wronged Tim in some way; both women faced a similar life-shaking situation.  I found one encounter satisfying, but the other left me hollow.  I guess that is because one woman acknowledged her wrong and asked, point blank, for forgiveness while the other dropped a bombshell with precious little explanation, then proceeded to ask for more sacrifice on Tim’s part.  The breach in their former relationship was glossed over.  Even as I continue to ponder, I see huge differences in the two women’s circumstances; perhaps silence was the wisest and most discreet response for the second woman.

Life is complex; things don’t always happen in the clean and tidy way of our dreams.  Which leads me to my last critique.  Karon cleaned up all of Father Tim’s loose ends in a way I found facile and unbelievable.  I wish she had left some dangling threads.  It’s too neat ending felt formulaic. 

Scott Sower’s performance reading this book is two notches above excellent. His reading rivals Sissy Spacek’s reading of To Kill a Mockingbird for the best audio book I’ve heard.  For its flaws, it is still a lovely, lovely book.  My youngest son is part Samwise Gamgee, part Jeeves, and part Father Tim.  I love the Father Tim in him, because I simply love Father Tim.  In a year or two (when prices have dropped) I’ll pick up Home to Holly Springs in print and read through it.  I anticipate listening to it more than once. 

If your library carries this, I highly recommend it.  If you enjoy fiction about clerics, check out Anthony Trollope’s Barset Chronicles, begininning with The Warden.


9 thoughts on “Home to Holly Springs

  1. I admit to skimming your review because I have yet to read this Christmas gift.  It’s on the nightstand, awaiting the right moment when I can submerge myself into the town of Holly Springs.  I loved *vacationing* in Mitford.
    BTW the town just south of Canton?  is Holly Springs, GA 🙂

  2. Yes, Holly Springs is a real place. I read that on Wikipedia; in
    the last section it said that Holly Springs is also the setting of Jan
    Karon’s latest book.Also, if anyone is a Lord Peter Wimsey fan, or a
    fan of Sherlock Holmes, and likes stories about fictional clerics, then
    I recommend G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries.  

  3. If’n/when you’re ready and you want a loaner, it is owned by my family at large and you’d be welcome to it. 
    Cannot wait to round table this story more this weekend.  🙂  I like your summary.  And I like your son—well said—part Samwise, part Jeeves, part Father Tim, and lots and lotsa CRB.

  4. I too have been reading Mitford, I think I just read #3.  I am not overly fond of them, they are too…tame…sweet?  It seems like there are all these tiny problems that always have an obvoius solution, and everyone is too nice.  That being said, I have read three of them and will probably read more as my neighbor finishes them.  They are charming.  I guess I have to find out what happens with the boy.
    I am reading Cry, the Beloved Country as per your recommendation.  Wow.  There is a paragraph on the front page, about the land taking care of you, we should have had to memorize that in college.  (my degree is in natural resources)

  5. Wildflower, Home to Holly Springs is the least tame of Karon’s books.  I’m waiting for Dooley to figure out who he loves; I suspect it won’t come until her last book.I’m so delighted that you are reading Cry, the Beloved Country.  It is such a powerful book.  I read it slowly, giving myself time to process and ponder.  I have another Paton book, but haven’t read it yet.If you haven’t read Wendell Berry yet, you would probably enjoy his position on land resources.Thanks so much for letting me know.  It made my day!

  6. i gotta say, i love all your little summaries of books–i tend to pick books to read in a rather random fashion!! And it’s the stuff you write like “I loved the cadences of Timothy Cavanaugh’s conversations with strangers and with old friends” and “Scott Sower’s performance reading this book is two notches above excellent. His reading rivals Sissy Spacek’s reading of To Kill a Mockingbirdfor the best audio book I’ve heard” that are what i need in a review! Just reading the copy the publisher WANTS us to read doesn’t do it for me– So, thanks much.

  7. I really liked this book. I thought Karon did a good job. I was taken aback (a bit) by the darkness of the book, however, I thought she handled the subject matters very well and in good taste, considering. It’s not Mitford but it’s still delightful.
    Thanks for your review!

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