The Best Book of 2014

I told myself I’d go slow. No big gulps. Savor the words. Take my time. Reflect. Enjoy.

And I did…the first 36 hours. But last night I had three hours open and three hours left of reading. Turn the light off at 10:00? C’est impossible!

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, dear reader, is the best book Jan Karon has written. Like a master chef with discerning taste, Karon has adjusted the flavor of her writing so it is not too sweet, not too bitter, not too peppery, not too bright; but the perfect combination of spices, textures, and taste. There are overtones, undertones, aromas, and the kind of finish that both satisfies and makes you yearn for more.

Laughter plays peek-a-boo throughout the text. Last night I read a section to my husband that required a working knowledge of both The Cat in the Hat and Poe’s The Raven to fully understand the rich humor. When Curt roared at the punchline, I loved him more than I had the minute before. There is humor on the surface, too: the spray tan provides more than a few guffaws.

There are three scenes that sing to the deep recesses of my soul. They, alone, are why I know I will be reading this book again and again. And, perhaps, again.

Jan Karon nourishes. Literary quotes to ponder, authors and titles to explore, music to review, idioms to delight in. And a bookstore—Happy Endings—that  plays a big part in the plot. There are also problems that can’t be fixed, people that fail, people that never fail to irritate.

If you’ve read certain kinds of Christian fiction, you are familiar with what I call the two-dimensional didactic. The pasted-on-the-end moral message, the perfect hero and wicked villain, the thin patina of plot splashed on the important main point. Gag. No. Thank. You.

When you read  Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, you learn without any awareness that you are being taught. The subjects are wide ranging: diabetes, exercise, how to help the bereaved (be there), how to say ‘no’, how to cope with retirement, how to give and receive grace.

DSC_1740I love the map of Mitford. I love these phrases:

the benediction of her father’s deep tenderness /
a selfish view that masquerades as noble /
that they would be shielded in their joy /
his favorite tryst for plain talk /
under the stairs, a good place to have a cry /

My favorite phrase describes this book: a plenitude of grace.

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10 thoughts on “The Best Book of 2014

  1. When I started reading this I realized I had never read the previous Father Tim book, In The Company of Others. And so I surgically removed myself from SSWSG and went back to read ITCOO. Now I am salivating. I better read fast (-:

    Your favorite phrases are beautiful.

    The time that Jan Karon spent away from Mitford seems to have enriched the narrative. Like a good marinade or the steeping of a favorite beverage, sometimes the magic happens in the waiting time.

    SO happy to read this review.

    DI

  2. I started it today. Savoring it. But a niggling thought that I should go back and reread the last three books just hangs around the margins… I wonder if I should. It’s already so terribly beautiful.

  3. Your review reminded me of this new release. I bought one as a gift and downloaded the Kindle version for myself. I, too, am savoring the words and scenes ~ like *let’s have a rest stop before the next fanfare.*
    Blessings from GA,
    Dana

  4. Hello, I stumbled upon you while looking for a cover photo of Elizabeth Goudge’s book The Bird in the Tree (loved your review of that BTW) and decided to stay a while and look around here. I have read all the Jan Karon books, devouring each one as soon as it came out. Loved them all except, for some reason, the last one about Fr. Tim’s trip to Ireland. That one disappointed. However, I have been hearing great things about this new book and look forward to delving into it sometime soon. I’ll be attempting to get it on loan from the library I think. Oh, also wanted to say Elizabeth Goudge is my favorite author and I have managed to collect almost all of her books over the past 30 years or so. She’s a real treasure. I am re-reading The Bird in the Tree right now. It has been lovely finding you. Hope to visit again.

    • Hi Sara (waving across the miles)!
      I’m glad you stopped to visit. One of my favorite scenes from Goudge is in Linnets and Valerians. Uncle Ambrose will have to take up the education of the four siblings and quizzes them to see what they know. When he asks the youngest what she knew of Greece (she thought it was grease) she replied, “A bright light,” and Uncle Ambrose was smitten. It’s warm and charming and funny.

      Come back when you have time!

      Carol

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