I know I’m not the only male that likes Jan Karon's books. However, I anticipate that the gender balance is a bit skewed toward the female demographic for her work. In this case, I am glad to be included, even if I’m in the minority.
Jan Karon’s Mitford series continues in her latest book Come Rain or Come Shine with the same sort of winsome storytelling and positive outcomes that have made her a frequent best seller. This latest book, released in September 2015, focuses on the few weeks before Dooley and Lace finally get married.
The storyline has jumped ahead several years since last year’s volume, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good. This is probably good, since the slow progress of years of veterinary training and long distance relationship may have been a bit tedious. The engagement has lasted, Dooley is just graduating from Vet school, and the star-crossed lovers are about to get married.
In many ways, Come Rain or Come Shine parallels the storyline of A Common Life, which tells the story of the wedding of Father Tim and Cynthia. Like that story, Come Rain or Come Shine focuses on the lunacy that is native to a wedding season. Karon conveys the stress of arranging the myriad details mixed with the pressure of making a permanent, life altering decision.
The majority of the story is centered at Meadowgate Farm, which is near Mitford, but far enough away to avoid recounting the history of every one of the Mitford town folk. Unlike many of the other stories, this one is told through many voices and not primarily through Father Tim’s. This appears to be the passing of the torch from Father Tim to his adopted son, Dooley.
The Big Knot, as the wedding is called, is supposed to be a simple matter with just family and friends--a simple affair that is intimate, inexpensive, and memorable. As you might suspect, the storyline is filled with the never ending stream of decisions and details that seem to complicate even the best laid plans of brides and men. Anyone who has tried to execute a wedding, simple or otherwise, will predict many of the wrinkles that arise. However, Karon is able to tell the story well enough that predictability does not detract from the pleasure of reading. In fact, although the reader can anticipate the problems, Karon reveals solutions that are sometimes unexpected and enjoyable.
There are plenty of laughs along the way. A runaway bull threatens the wedding; Harley loses his teeth repeatedly; and some of the usual contrast between the sophisticated transplants to Mitford and the mountain born natives creates tension and highlights the foibles of each. Karon seems to be able to poke at all parties without creating a caricature or demeaning either culture.
This is largely a lighthearted story, though at its edges there is the drama that anyone who knows Mitford would expect. Pauline Leeper, mother to Dooley and others, still hasn’t been fully reconciled to her kids, though there is foreshadowing that it might happen in a future volume. However, this story doesn’t take on some of the major issues that many of Karon’s stories do. We see happy resolution to many of the problems from previous stories. Lace and Dooley are getting married. Sammy Barlowe is playing championship pool on cable television and keeping his nose clean. Father Tim is showing restraint and controlling his diabetes well.
This is an escapist romance. There is enough tension and a few twists and turns throughout that make it an enjoyable read. However, like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon stories, this tale keeps the largest issues of life at bay.
Is this high literature? No. But Karon does well in developing her characters and keeping the storyline moving. A gospel metanarrative is woven through the narrative as Karon gives readers what they long for: a happy ending despite all of the turmoil and trouble.
Come rain or come shine the wedding goes off, though certainly not without the number of hiccups that make such events memorable. The promise Karon leaves us with is that the relationship between Lace and Dooley will also continue, come rain or come shine. Hopefully Karon doesn’t make us wait too long to find out how it goes.
Note: A gratis copy of this volume was provided by the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.