(Love this cover! So pretty.)
Home to Holly Springs is the first Father Tim spin-off novel. Chronologically, it falls between Light From Heaven and Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good. The book follows Father Tim as he travels back to Holly Springs, Mississippi, where he was born and raised. While there he encounters many people from his past and also makes a lot of new connections. Home to Holly Springs has a bit of an air of mystery to it, and also fills in a lot of blanks that have been alluded to in the Mitford books. This book is nothing less than what I've come to expect of Jan Karon novels.
The book opens with Father Tim receiving a cryptic letter. The entirety of the letter: "Come home." That's it. No signature; no explanation. But Father Tim and Cynthia do agree that he needs to go. It's been nearly 40 years since he was last in Holly Springs. It is, indeed, time for him to go home. Understandably, he's a bit apprehensive. Wouldn't you be? He's been gone for nearly 40 years! There was bad blood with his dad. There was a forbidden friendship. There was a nanny who disappeared mysteriously. Father Tim isn't sure at all what he'll find when he returns, or how he'll be greeted. I was super excited to see all the Mitford regulars mirrored in Holly Springs. There's a slightly deeper vernacular, but they're all there. There's the hardware shop owner, where the Holly Springs version of the turkey club hang out. And the diner, run by Frank, who is the Holly Springs Percy. There's even a version of Miss Patty in Holly Springs! I just love the characters in Jan Karon's books. I want to be friends with all of them!
I also really enjoyed the little mystery in this book. That's new for a Mitford book. The author of the mystery "come home" letter is only revealed to the reader later in the book. Father Tim doesn't know who it is either, so it's a fun journey together to find out who wrote it and why. When I found out who it was and why, I wanted to cry happy tears. You're going to love it! If you've already read through the Mitford books (like me), then the surprise is kinda revealed in Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good but the book is still so good that I got caught up in the emotions.
Home to Holly Springs is a bit more emotionally deep than most of the Mitford books, but Jan Karon handles it very, very well. Sections of flashback to incidents in his childhood that were not so pleasant are bracketed by sections of story set in the present day, and his interactions with the almost overly-hospitable residents of Holly Springs. There is a lot of re-visiting of the past, but there's also a lot of healing and character growth for Father Tim. He is faced with his past, and he dives in courageously to emerge a stronger, better man.
Five of five stars!
*I checked out my copy of Home to Holly Springs from my local library.