In Jan Karon’s latest Mitford novel, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, Father Tim and Cynthia have returned to their beloved hometown after their sojourn to Ireland, hoping for a respite. But as Uncle Billy would say, “There’s no rest for the wicked, and the righteous don’t need none.” They are immediately caught up again in the business of small town life, courtesy of characters old and new. Emma Newland, Father Tim’s former secretary, is looking for employment. Father Talbot, the new priest of Lord’s Chapel, is trying to watch over souls while ignoring the ache in his own. Dooley is wondering if his relationship with Lace Turner is worth a deeper commitment while Sammy, his younger brother, seems determined to cause as much trouble as he can without caring about whom he hurts. And Father Tim has lost his sense of direction. Will Father Tim find something he can put his heart into? Will Dooley overcome his past and find love? And will Sammy discover the grace he so desperately needs before it is too late?
Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good is the tenth book in the Mitford series but a stand-alone novel. Fans of Ms. Karon will not be disappointed. Readers are immediately transported to the idyllic small town set in the North Carolina Mountains, and are immersed in the endearing and sometimes complicated relationships that make Mitford a favorite place to visit. This is why Ms. Karon’s writing voice is often imitated but never duplicated. Her intimate knowledge of the setting lends to the homey, familiar feeling of the story, and the author seems to have regained the tone that has made the early books in the series a success. Karon’s style is lively, light, and warm-hearted, but not without depth. There are profound Christian themes throughout, and they are explored with some detail, which is logical as the main character is a priest. However, the story isn’t drowning in weighty religious language or moral overtones.
The plot of Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good is character driven and mostly seen through the eyes of Father Tim. The novel is structured in vignette style with many storylines, which only enhances the pace of the book and keeps the reader turning the pages. The majority of the conflict centers on the relationships of the characters. Father Tim, Cynthia, and Dooley display growth with each successive book in the series, and each minor character has a unique voice and personality in dialogue that adds color and variety to the narrative. Besides the fact that the book is not long enough, the only weakness is that Father Tim’s character is imagined in the mind of a woman and, at times, lacks a true masculine voice in thought or action.
Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good will appeal to Christians and non-Christians alike who enjoy an entertaining but wholesome read. It is a cozy, pastoral tale perfect for the fireside on a rainy day.
In conclusion, Ms. Karon should be applauded for a welcome addition to a wonderful series. It is by far one of her best efforts. It might be helpful for new readers to start from the first book to acquaint themselves with the characters and context. Nevertheless, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good is a delightful treat, and makes Mitford a place where readers will want to return again and again.