A Common Life is a trip back in time for fans of "the little town with the big heart." Somewhere between the second and third volumes of Jan Karon's Mitford Years series, dyed-in-the-wool bachelor Father Timothy Kavanagh and his next-door neighbor Cynthia Coppersmith tied the knot. The author left it to readers' imaginations to fill in the blanks. In this delightful story, Karon paints a complete picture of the events surrounding the wedding of Mitford's best-loved couple, and chronicles the poignant and often hilarious reactions to the nuptial news by the tightly knit North Carolina community.
All the details cherished by those who are enchanted by weddings are offered here, from the color of the bridal outfit (aquamarine) to the choice of flowers (virgin's bower and hydrangeas). When the wedding bells finally ring, the pews are packed with the people who make Mitford special: ornery Uncle Billy, delightful Miss Sadie, indispensable Louella, and the cantankerous Emma Newland. And there's not a dry eye in the house when Father Tim's problematic foster child Dooley Barlowe sings for the two people who love him the most.
A Common Life is not just a wedding story. It's also an intimate portrait of the unfolding love between Cynthia and the shy Father Tim, complete with fears and hesitations, professions of commitment, and Barnabas the dog delivering love letters. But there's nothing heavy-handed here. The tensions don't run any higher than wondering if Cynthia will make it to the wedding on time after getting locked inside her own bathroom, or guessing if Esther will make her famous three-layer orange marmalade cake for the reception. Told in the warm, down-home style that Karon has built her reputation on, A Common Life is sweet without being saccharine, charming without being cloying. It's an invitation to a literary reunion of the best kind, and like all weddings, it will probably coax a few tears and plenty of smiles. --Cindy Crosby
From Publishers Weekly
Fans of Mitford, Karon's delightful fictional village in western North Carolina, will be thrilled with this newest installment, which relates an episode she skipped over in her earlier books: Father Tim and Cynthia's wedding. (He proposed at the end of the second Mitford book, and at the beginning of the third, they were already happily married.) Finally, readers get to see the stunned expressions of most Mitford residents when they hear Father Tim has actually popped the question. Readers learn about Cynthia's anxieties over the pending nuptials, share Esther Bolick's delight when Cynthia asks her to bake her famous orange marmalade cake and hum along as the Lord's Chapel parish belts out "Praise my soul the King of Heaven" at the ceremony. And as usual, Karon works in a few snippets of convincing mountain dialect. While Mitford die-hards will welcome this installment, however, the unconverted won't find much to bring them around; one has to already know Karon's eccentric characters, with all their foibles, to fully appreciate the book. Even Mitford devotees may be a touch disappointed that the trademark lessons about Christian faith that Karon weaves so seamlessly into most of her tales are more or less absent from this slim volume. (When they do appear, they stick out, as when Bishop Cullen pointedly discusses the role of sex in Christian marriage.) Still, don't be surprised if Mitford fans begin serving orange marmalade cake at their weddings, and sing hymn 410 at every opportunity. (Apr. 9)Forecast: Fresh from her 2000 Christy and ECPA Gold Medallion Awards for A New Song (book five), Karon keeps rolling along with the Mitford series. This book will no doubt please the thousands of fans who have written to Karon, asking, "Why weren't we invited to the wedding?" Six weeks before its release, the novel was hovering around the #100 position on Amazon.
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