More literary comfort food, as Karon agreeably records another year in Mitford, the small town where every problem has a human face and where Father Tim, the Episcopalian rector, is always there to help. Again, like its three predecessors (These High, Green Hills, 1996, etc.), Karon's latest continues the stories of now-familiar Mitford citizens. And again, always at the heart of the action is 60-something Father Tim Kavanagh, who, with wife Cynthia, an author and illustrator, is now ""getting ready to. . . go out to Canaan""--to retire. Kavanagh is one of those rare literary creations--a credible good man whose goodness comes from faith, humility, and a zest for life. He is a loving pastor who's ever ready to respond to his flock's needs. And needs they have. When Lace, the young girl he rescued from a violent father, is unable to help the ailing Harley, who once took care of her, Tim gives him a home in the rectory; he also helps recovering alcoholic Pauline find work, as well as the baby daughter she gave away; and he advises Winnie, owner of the local bakery, on how to thwart a crooked realtor. Meanwhile, there's a mayoral election to contend with, as Esther Cunningham is challenged by the suspiciously free-spending Mack Stroupe. And a Florida company wants to turn Fernbank, a Mifford landmark, into a spa. While Tim responds to crises, major and minor, he is poignantly aware that his days as a rector are numbered. But as he drives around on Christmas Eve, there's still much to celebrate (""if there were a poll-tax on joy this night of nights, he'd be dead broke""). A heart-wanner that diverts the spirit as it uncloyingly celebrates life in all its quirkiness in a small town.