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.