Sunday, September 15, 2013
At Home in Mitford
I recently started hearing quite a bit about the Mitford series from several people. I wasn't really into any book, so I thought I'd try it out.... and I'm so glad I did! Mitford,to paraphrase the author Jan Karon, is a series written to give the readers an extended family, a secure and homey place to go. And it does. Father Tim is a dear. He is sweet, kind, reserved, serious, and at times, humorous. A little confusing, right? Well, he is complex in that he can be adventuresome, silly, and outgoing, while at other times being the opposite of adventuresome, reserved, and serious. Got it? You will if you read the books, don't worry.
At the beginning of the book, Father Tim is a little Episcopalian preacher in the small town of Mitford, which is located in the mountains of North Carolina. He keeps himself busy by going on his rounds, dealing with his well meaning but rather pushy secretary Emma, and reading and cooking at home. He loves his peace and quiet and his house is a bachelor's paradise. But soon, his peace and quiet is turned upside down when a huge black dog befriends him, a mischievous boy Dooley is left in his care, and a new, outgoing, and attractive new neighbor moves in next door! There are many lovable characters and fun surprises in the book At Home in Mitford.
I have also read the second book in the Mitford series, A Light in the Window. Tons of surprises come then too, proving that life in a small town is anything but boring!
Since I've enjoyed these books so much, I thought I'd take the time to answer the Reader's Guide questions; I hope you enjoy!
The Mitford Years Book I: At Home in Mitford
1. What role does Barnabas play in Father Tim’s life? What other characters seem to invade Father Tim’s
already busy life, only later to prove enriching elements? Are there any that are a permanent drag on his
spirits? How does Father Tim come to terms with them?
Barnabas, Father Tim's new dog, plays a big role in Fr.'s new life. Fr. is starting to think maybe he's hit a dry spell, feeling rather dull and boring. Suddenly, a dog comes bounding into his life, providing Father Tim with exactly what he needs: a companion. Father Tim now has someone to read to, talk to, walk with, and sleep with. He is a God send, to say the least.
2. Dooley appears on the scene untamed and uninvited. What is it that ﬁnally makes Father Tim and
Dooley aware that they need each other? How does Dooley contribute to Father Tim’s life? Have you had
“Dooleys” in your own life?
Father Tim is not exactly thrilled he is left with a boy to take care of, especially a rambunctious boy like Dooley. But I believe Dooley's flaws are just what make Father Tim love him. And Dooley finds in Father Tim a mentor and friend, both things that he desperately needed and hadn't necessarily had up to that point. I can't think of the exact moment, but those feelings developed slowly throughout the book.
3. Choose two of your group members to read the dialogue between Dooley and Puny in the middle of
Chapter Seven — the scene where they ﬁrst meet. How does the dialect diﬀer in your part of the country?
Try reading a brief part of a Dooley speech in the dialect of your own region.
Weeeeeellll this will be tricky because y'all can't hear me. So, let me say that I do not have a southern accent, but a Midwest one, so Dooley's speech sounds extremely different when I say it.
4. Which characters did you dislike at ﬁrst, only to later come to appreciate or at least understand them?
What characters in the book react that way to someone new?
I was iffy about Dooley at first. He was sweet, but crude and rough around the edges. He truly was a diamond in the rough though, and I realize that now. Another character that I disliked at first, and at times still do, is Father Tim's neighbor Cynthia Coppersmith. She was nice and funny and outgoing at times, but at others she seemed to be pushy and overbearing and overly sensitive. I understand her now, for the most part, but she surprises and angers me at times.
5. Compare Miss Sadie and Miss Rose. They are very diﬀerent characters, but both make a powerful contribution to the books. What makes them such vivid characters? What would Mitford be like without them? What unique contributions do they make?
Miss Sadie is a doll! She is the oldest of Father Tim's parishioners, and she is caring, old-fashioned, and a wonderful story teller to boot! She provides Father Tim with guidance, which he needs on occasion, as he's usually the one having to give guidance to others, and she reveals surprises and love at every turn. Miss Rose is quite a character as well, but in a different way. Miss Rose has a disease, which has its ups and downs. She can be mean and cantankerous then happy and silly. She is almost like a child in some ways. She and her husband, "Uncle Billy" live in a decrepit mansion on Main Street and are quite the pair.
6. Priests seldom have people they can conﬁde in. Who are Father Tim’s conﬁdants? What secrets does he
entrust to them? What role does prayer play in giving Father Tim a chance to truly vent his feelings?
Father Tim has several confidants, thankfully. His bishop, Stuart councils and consoles him, an old preacher Absalom Greer is great for discussions and answers, and his oldest friends in Mitford, the vet and his wife, Marge, can be counted on for a sympathetic ear and some homemade dinner anytime. Not to mention Miss Sadie, who I talked about above.
7. “Mitford takes care of its own,” says Mayor Cunningham. How does this happen in the book? Is this
limited only to small towns? What other types of communities can it take place in?
There are so many occasions in which this happens! Uncle Billy and Rose are greatly helped along by the town of Mitford, as is Homeless Hobbes and just about everybody you can think of. Mitford is a close knit, loving community, rather like a family. They may bicker and fight with each other, but the minute an outsider threatens them, or anyone is in trouble, they can be counted on to stick together. I don't think this is limited to small towns. It's easier to see and happens often in "small towns," but if you look closely, this sentiment could be said of any town, big or small.
If you made it all the way to the end, congratulations! You win 1,000 Madd Rose points! Have any of you ever read a Mitford book, if so, what did you think of it? Do you think you might look into it now that you've read this? TTFN! As Tigger says :)