Thanks for hanging with me through this re-read project! Shepherds Abiding is the 8th Mitford book; we're almost done! Today I'm starting the 9th and final (for now!) book: Light From Heaven.
Shepherds Abiding is similar to A Common Life in length and depth. Meaning there's not much of either. But that's ok! It's a short and sweet little Christmas story. I think the first time I read it, I did read it at Christmas time and it was perfect for that. With all the hubbub of the holidays, you don't really want a deep, involved novel. Of course this time around, I was reading it in July. My younger sister does stuff like that on purpose; I only did it because of the re-read project.
This Mitford tale takes place over the course of the Advent season, and it's chronologically in order with the books immediately before and after. (Remember, A Common Life was out of order? I saw a lot of anger on Goodreads about that.) Father Tim "rescues" a beat-up plaster creche set from Andrew Gregory's back room and spends all of his free time restoring, repairing, and repainting the set as a Christmas surprise for Cynthia. Cynthia is herself hard at work behind a locked workroom door, creating a surprise for Father Tim. Dooley is coming home for Christmas, and they'll also host Louella, Harley, Reverend Scott, Hope from Happy Endings, Pauline, Buck, Poo, Jessie, Sammy, and Lon (Sammy's neighbor, who drives Sammy to and from Mitford). What a happy Christmas crowd for dinner!
There's a great secondary plot in Shepherds Abiding that focuses on Hope Winchester, who runs Happy Endings Bookstore. The mostly-absentee owner of the store, Helen, has decided to close up Happy Endings and focus her efforts on her Florida store. Hope, a new Christian, prays on it and decides to make Helen an offer to buy the store and it's remaining inventory and run it herself. It's a huge move, and a lot of pieces are up in the air. By the end of the book, she has her own bookstore! She's also inviting her sister to come live with her and help her run it. And she's in a relationship with Reverend Scott.
Some readers may not agree with a 100% happy ending to a book, but I do! Not every Mitford book is so perfectly neat, but I like that Jan Karon has given us a happy Christmas tale. It felt a little odd to read it in July, but perhaps I'll remember to pull it back out and re-read it (for a third time!) in December.
Next: the 9th Mitford book! Last stop before Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good!
*I own my copy of Shepherds Abiding.