The literary equivalent of comfort food in a tale of middle-aged love in Mitford, a fictional North Carolina small town: a novel that restores rather than provokes as it deftly portrays men and women caught up in the human condition. Like its popular predecessors (At Home in Mitford and A Light in the Window, not reviewed), the author's latest celebrates the lives of several Mitford citizens while offering vignettes of many more. As the story opens, 60ish Episcopalian Rector Father Tim Kavanagh has just returned from his honeymoon. A longtime bachelor, he is touchingly surprised by the joy marriage to neighbor Cynthia has brought him. Cynthia, a children's book author and illustrator, is not, however, a traditional clergyman's wife--a shocking bit of news for Tim's secretary Emma and the Episcopal Church Women. Thanks, though, to a splendid parish tea party--a tea for which Cynthia redecorates the rectory and provides delicious food--the ladies are mollified. In the year that passes, the holidays (both religious and secular) are celebrated; the community reaffirms its identity; and the deaths of the town's oldest inhabitant and of a child are balanced by the birth of twins to Tim's young housekeeper. Meanwhile, though the setting is pastoral and the people good-hearted, Mitford is as subject to change and horror as the outside world. Misogynist J.C., the editor of the local paper, amazes the townsfolk by marrying Mitford's first woman police officer; Lacey, a young girl, though badly beaten by her father, refuses to leave home because she must care for her bedridden mother; Pauline Barlowe is set on fire by the man she lives with; and Tim's faith is sorely tested and then reaffirmed. Such a small canvas framed by faith could easily be smug and anodyne, but it's not: Karon is one of those rare writers who can depict the good and the ordinary without being boring or condescending. A book to curl up with.