Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

At Home in Mitford

I was prejudiced against the Mitford books from the start. I had been told by many people that Jan Karon was the literary equivalent of Thomas Kinkade: sentimentalism run amok. No conflict, no darkness, no struggles. So I went into the book At Home in Mitford prepared to dislike it. However, it came recommended by both my wife with impeccable literary taste and the illustrious George Grant, so I thought I’d give it a try. Imagine my surprise to find that this is a book full of heartache and sorrow as well as joy and laughter. Mitford is not a town full of perfect people with no problems. Old people struggle with the problems of aging, mental health, and having no one to listen to them, gossip flies as it does in small towns, personal relationships are strained, and disease rears its ugly head in more than one form. Mitford is not pre-fall Eden.

Moreover, Mitford is a town full of people that I remember clearly from my childhood. Growing up in a county with a population of less than e 5000 people, and graduating from the only public high school in a class of 29, so much of this book rings true to my personal experiences. Yes, there are no serial rapists or murderers in Mitford, but there were none in the town I grew up in either. Growing up, everyone in town left their doors unlocked and often the keys in their cars.

So my response to those who say that Mitford is pure sentimentalism would be that it is simply not true. There is an error in sentimentalism, denying the evil in the world and living a deluded existence. There is another error, however, of assuming that evil is all powerful, and that the gospel has no effect on real communities. This is seen in the fact that we want jaded and cynical stories in which there are no true heroes, and everyone is harboring bitterness and dark secrets. This is an equally untrue view of the world. Mitford is a town that has been affected by its many churches and the Christian influence that has been exerted on it. Not everyone in Mitford is a Christian, but everyone there has been influenced by generations of Christian preaching and living. The town I grew up in was much the same. No one is sinless. Yes there are a few deep dark secrets in the town’s history. But evil is conquered by the gospel. Overall, we see sinners struggling to live in Christian community with one another, and teaching us some good lessons, by the way, of how exactly that is done.


Erica said…
Well, since I'm here at the library, how about I go ahead and check the first one out?