At first, I wondered if the Mitford series would be too "lightweight" and too "sweet" for my reading tastes. Usually I read "heavier" tales. Eventually, I decided to try a couple early Mitford novels, at the recommendation of a friend who usually shares my "denser" reading choices. I never thought that an extended tale about a middle-aged, Episcopalian priest in small town America, would be so riveting, enjoyable and addictive. Books six through nine will not disappoint, especially if one has read the first five tales.
I was immediately caught up Ms. Karon's continued, well-crafted storyline and, especially, character development, which is the crux of all Mitford novels. The main character, Father Tim, is a truly good person who tries his best to overcome his fears and misgivings about himself and life, in order to lead his flock into better community and godly lives. His goodness is refreshingly real and his parishoners are a typical cross-section of any small town or neighborhood. Typically, the Mitfordites all sometimes drive each other crazy but fiercely do their best to make their town the most comfortable and friendly place to live.
In last four novels, favorite characters come and go, in the life and times of Mitford, as in any community. Ms. Karon has a very warm and humorous way to portray the movers and shakers of the town, some who live in the mainstream of life, as well some who live on the fringes of society. With time and patience, many of Mitford's factions are brought together and all benefit from the process of helping one another.
What I didn't particularly appreciate, in these later novels, were the increasing number of more lengthly religious quotes and more long-winded soapboxing about Christianity. The message of the godly life could have been precised without sacrificing the theme of the novels. But some other readers may enjoy such sermonizing, especially if one is more knowledgeable about the Bible than I am, so I tended to skip the really long religious texts and prayers. However the characters' philosophical messages were not lost on me and some I really took to heart.
If you need a break from more dense tales, or wish to explore a new literary genre, do try all the Mitford books. Jan Karon's writing makes you feel right at home and happy to see the more positive side of life. I really hated that I have now read all novels in this series, since I had to "leave" Mitford and its wonderful inhabitants. I had become really comfy there. However, I know that I will reread the whole series, some time distant, when I need a personal reaffirmation that positive humanity does exist in us all and it's there for us to share.
If you enjoy the Mitford series, you might also like the writing of the Scotsman, Alexander McCall Smith. His NO. 1 LADIES DETECTIVE AGENCY series, as well as his SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB series, are equally well-written and fraught with philosophical insights and the positive goodness that, potentially, could guide our life journeys.