Back Home in Mitford
by Phillip E. Johnson
I recently spent a month in the hospital. The care was excellent, visitors were frequent, and even the food was tolerable, but even so, the monotonous hospital routine got me down. To give me an imaginative respite, my wife brought a copy of A Common Life, Jan Karon’s latest novel of life in Mitford. Mitford is a sort of American Shangri-La, where the virtues of traditional small town life have been preserved through the influence of Father Tim, an aging Episcopal priest who still uses the old Book of Common Prayer and practices its principles. In A Common Life, Father Tim finally gets up the nerve to propose to his sweetheart, Cynthia (who writes and illustrates children’s books featuring her cat, Violet). Thus ensues the mother of all sentimental weddings, with such trimmings as an a capella solo by the now 13-year-old waif Tim has raised, a bride who accidentally locks herself in the bathroom and almost misses the ceremony, and a scenic honeymoon cottage that is a shade too rustic.
Smile patronizingly if you like, but the story was perfect for the occasion. For an evening, my hospital room seemed to be in Mitford, and contentment filled my soul. In the morning I told my wife that I had enjoyed the book, but I was tempted to add that the setting was unbelievable, because in the real world Father Tim would have been put out to pasture by a Spong-like bishop to make way for some angry lesbian, and the state would be using its eminent domain power to level the town so pseudo-Indians could erect another casino.
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Phillip E. Johnson is Professor of Law (emeritus) at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Darwin on Trial, The Wedge of Truth, The Right Questions (InterVarsity Press), and other books challenging the naturalistic assumptions that dominate modern culture. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.
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