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#1 New York Times bestselling author Jan Karon returns with the fourteenth novel in the beloved Mitford series, featuring three generations of Kavanaghs.
After twelve years of wrestling with the conflicts of retirement, Father Tim Kavanagh realizes he doesn't need a steady job to prove himself. Then he's given one. As for what it proves, heaven only knows.
Millions of Karon fans will be thrilled that it’s life as usual in the wildly popular Mitford series: A beloved town character lands a front-page obituary, but who was it, exactly, who died? And what about the former mayor, born the year Lindbergh landed in Paris, who’s still running for office? All this, of course, is but a feather on the wind compared to Muse editor J.C. Hogan’s desperate attempts to find a cure for his marital woes. Will it be high-def TV or his pork chop marinade?
In fiction, as in real life, there are no guarantees.
Twenty minutes from Mitford at Meadowgate Farm, newlyweds Dooley and Lace Kavanagh face a crisis that devastates their bank account and impacts their family vet practice.
But there is still a lot to celebrate, as their adopted son, Jack, looks forward to the most important day of his life—with great cooking, country music, and lots of people who love him. Happily, it will also be a day when the terrible wound in Dooley’s biological family begins to heal because of a game—let’s just call it a miracle—that breaks all the rules.
In To Be Where You Are, Jan Karon weaves together the richly comic and compelling lives of two Kavanagh families, and a cast of characters that readers around the world now love like kin.
About the Author
Jan Karon is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels in the Mitford series, featuring Episcopal priest Father Tim Kavanagh. She has authored twelve other books, including Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader, and several titles for children. Jan lives in Virginia near the World Heritage site of Jefferson's Monticello.
Hometown:Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Date of Birth:1937
Place of Birth:Lenoir, North Carolina
Read an Excerpt
Thursday, October 1
It was the first day of October, and all things considered, Mitford was pretty quiet.
Around the tenth of the month is when it would hit the fan. The chlorophylls of summer foliage would have degraded into nonfluorescent chlorophyll catabolites, and hidden pigments would explode in a pyrotechnic extravagance of scarlet, gold, vermilion, and out-loud yellow.
While the display would be rampant throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, Mitford was proud to offer its very own autumn expo:
A brace of mature Acer rubrum, which paraded from Town Hall to First Baptist. Such annual spectacle would not be missed by tourists in the hundreds, steaming up the mountain with the ubiquitous cell phone and occasional Nikon.
There was, however, a caveat. There were now two gaps in the parade of maples. One where lightning had struck in 2005 and the other where trunk rot had finally dealt its fatal blow.
The Council had ordered the stump ground and the vacant sites disguised with mulch. Mitford had not enjoyed a furor in quite a while and somehow, collectively, had decided the time had come.
A party of locals demanded that the maples be replaced, full-size, which would cost the town a bundle. Others campaigned to replant with beds of pansies, historically known as the town flower. A group calling themselves the Vocal Locals objected to pine bark mulch as too acidic for the soil and pressed for cocoa bean hulls, which others rejected outright as ‘too foreign.’
Esther Cunningham’s copy of the weekly Muse hit the porch at seven-thirty sharp; she read the feature on the trees while cranked back in her recliner.
She hadn’t served as Mitford’s mayor, albeit former, for nothing. She knew about such things. People were right about th’ pine bark—get it offa there and go with th’ pansies. How often did they get a blank spot to drop in a couple flats of pansies? As for replacement, no. Nobody in their right mind would go for the cost of spading in mature trees, and young stock would look ridiculous among their elders.
After sixteen nose-to-the-grindstone years, she’d been retired for how long? Too long! She had sworn never to run for office again, but didn’t people change their minds all the time and so what if she was gaining on ninety?
Take th’ woman in England who was a hundred and still tend- in’ bar—pullin’ pints, she called it, three days a week. And that hundred-year-old gal writin’ for a newspaper, askin’ people, Got any news?
And how about th’ mayor who was still mayorin’ at a hundred an’ two, bless ’er heart? Just lately, she dropped dead comin’ out of a council meeting, which was no surprise. How many of those monkey shows had she, Esther Cunningham, barely escaped with her life?
She located the remote in the pocket of the recliner, cranked upright, and reached for her iPad.
Havin’ an iPad had opened a whole new world. Her daughters could no longer accuse her of bein’ Stone Age; she knew what was goin’ on out there with people livin’ longer.
At seven thirty-five, Father Tim Kavanagh dropped a frozen banana, half a package of frozen acai berries, and a handful of frozen mangoes and peaches into a blender. The mélange was followed by a container of Greek yogurt, a spoonful of tahini, and a long pour of almond milk.
He hit the Blend button while firmly holding down the lid. Completely new to the smoothie regimen, he was alarmed by the possibility of the lid flying off and splattering stuff all over the kitchen. But the blender wouldn’t blend. It sounded like an eighteen-wheeler spinning tires on a sheet of ice.
He hit Off and reviewed the options.
Puree, Whip, Mix, Stir, Grind, Frappé.
Grind did not work. Same with the other options.
Okay, so some of the contents were frozen like a rock; maybe they had to partially thaw. When the nurse gave him the recipe after his physical, she didn’t say the ingredients had to be thawed. He did not have time to wait for something to thaw. He hit Blend again. A sound like tires screaming on a NASCAR track.
This would be his first morning without caffeine. Whether he could live up to the caffeine-free regimen recommended by Dr. Wilson, he couldn’t say. He was totally hooked on coffee and had been for decades. Cut him some slack, for Pete’s sake. Let him cling to this harmless vice.
He removed the lid and looked in. Maybe if he stuck a knife down in there and broke up the frozen chunks . . .
So, okay, you cannot put in big chunks, they have to be broken up first, because that worked pretty well and now the blender was sort of blending. This smoothie business was no walk in the park. He’d had trouble opening the package of frozen acai berries and resorted to sawing through the wrapper with a bread knife. Acai berries, whey, tahini—such exotic items were not available at the Local; he’d been forced to drive to the neighboring Wesley, a college town in which such products thrived.
He emptied the contents of the blender into a large glass for himself and one for Cynthia, who would be coming downstairs any minute, and since Puny was taking a few weeks off, he was careful to do a cleanup.
He carried the glasses to the study, glancing beyond what they called their ‘picture window’ to a view of their own Acer rubrum. The crimson was as yet a mere blush, and there were the blue mountains beyond, illumined by the blast of pure, clean light that happens when the earth does its autumnal tilt.
He put the glasses on the table, sat on the sofa. To be honest, he wasn’t completely excited about today’s agenda.
They would be lugging the contents of Cynthia’s workroom up the hall to the dining room, now vacant of the pool table, which had recently moved to Meadowgate Farm, hallelujah.
He visualized the countless tubes of paint and brushes, boxes of colored pencils and pens, and the tons of finished art that had happily leaned against a wall for a decade or two, plus the contents of a massive wooden file cabinet wherein resided the complete history of her life as a writer/illustrator of children’s books. Then there was all the stuff pushpinned to the wall that had served as images of encouragement: faded prints of Matisse paintings, her grandfather on a pony at the age of nine, newspaper and trade journal accounts of her many awards and recognitions, innumerable photos of white cats in various poses . . .
Lug, haul, schlep, tote—that was the way of marriage. As a bachelor, he had never moved anything. Every item in the rectory had been deeply, and for his money happily, rooted in place.
He checked his watch.
They would have to be dressed and out of here at twelve-fifteen for Esther Cunningham’s birthday luncheon at the club, and after the big bash, come home and have at it again. But he wouldn’t grumble. The new workspace would be reviving for his wife, who had for years hunkered down in quarters the size of a shoebox.
He looked across the room where Truman slept in a wingback chair, undisturbed by dreams of preying hawks or the one-upmanship of barn cats. A cat as white as chalk, except for a black ear, was a red flag to rural predators, including fox and bear. Clearly Truman had considered the odds and made a decision to leave Meadowgate Farm. He was discovered yesterday on the backseat of Cynthia’s new Mini Cooper Roadster. When she arrived home and opened the car door to take out a sack of squash from the farm garden, Truman had jumped down and dived for their kitchen door. Home free!
And here was his wife, a vision in sweats and fuzzy slippers.
‘This is the day the Lord has made!’ she said.
He lifted his glass. ‘Let us rejoice and be glad in it!’
She thumped onto the sofa, took her glass from the table. Smelled the contents.
‘What is this?’
‘It’s a smoothie, the first of ten commandments from Wilson. It contains calcium to help restore bones.’ Osteo was the dark word the nurse had used. That’s where this is headed if you don’t shape up, Father.
Cynthia took a sip and looked at him, wordless.
‘I think I forgot the whey,’ he said.
‘The recipe calls for whey, but I forgot. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.’ He drank half the stuff, just to show that he could.
She tried again. ‘There’s a blob of something in here.’
‘I think there’s supposed to be a blob or two.’
‘But a smoothie is supposed to be smooth.’
‘Blobs are good for you.’ It was his final argument.
She took another sip, tentative. ‘I can’t do this. I’ll settle for the bones of Elijah, dry as they may be. But thank you, sweetheart.’
‘We also have to start walking, Kav’na. Every day. A hundred and fifty minutes a week, total. Should be easy. Oh, and do weight-bearing exercises.’
‘Is this your medical protocol or my medical protocol?’
‘Mine, really, but your bone density test is due next week and you’ll need the same treatment, trust me. It’s an old-age thing.’
She gave him a look. ‘I can’t believe you’re caving to the notion of old age.’
‘Not caving, just being realistic.’
‘Realistically, I must begin painting today. The Children’s Hospital auction . . . ’
‘Realistically, the auction is nearly six months away. April!’
‘Six months will be gone in a blink. Irene and I are committing to fifteen new paintings each. The work sold so well last time, we want to be even better this year. It isn’t easy to be better each year.’
‘Tell me about it.’
So she would be absent from this galaxy until the last brush was cleaned and put away. For years he’d been jealous of her creative passions, but in recent years had learned to support and encourage her—a strategy which, ironically, returned her to him in surprising ways.
He heard the Muse truck slow down, then roar away.
‘The Muse!’ he cried. ‘Drink up, girl, we have work to do!’
He went to the door and brought the newspaper in; he would just take a minute to check LOL, aka the laugh of the week.
He didn’t have to look far.
‘Mitford School Students,’ declared the front-page headline, ‘Make Delicious Snacks.’
Mitford’s police captain shocked herself by running a red light—indeed, the only traffic light in town.
She was mortified. She looked both ways on Lilac Road, ahead on Main, and into the rearview mirror. Had anyone witnessed this? All clear, thank the Lord. That was unusual for a weekday morning, but in a town like Mitford, even the bushes had eyes. She was born with a lead foot, and she’d been hauling to make it to the station for a special meeting of the day shift.
She wheeled into the parking lot as the church bells at Lord’s Chapel began their eight o’clock chime. Bong . . . bong . . .
She was an honest woman; should she write herself a citation? Adele Hogan, MPD police captain, grandmother, churchgoer, wife of local newspaper editor . . .
She was struck then by something like an aftershock. She realized she hadn’t just run the light, she had been speeding. Her heart was kicking like a horse at the stall door. She got out of the patrol car and adjusted her holster with the new .40-caliber Sig Sauer. She hadn’t been doing more than five or six miles per hour—okay, ten—over the limit, but still . . .
Two offenses. If her mama knew this, she would roll over in her grave. A citation would send her to court where they would march her fool self off to driving school. Her face burned. If she did not opt for driving school, she would have to pay court costs and a fine. Five hundred bucks. If she opted for school, the DA could probably be moved to reduce the charges for a first offender, but there would still be points on her driver’s license, an increase in her insurance premiums, and nobody in town, much less the MPD, would let her forget it.
As if that wasn’t punishment enough, the whole miserable incident would land on the station log, engraved in stone, which is when it would go from bad to worse.
Everybody knew Vanita Bentley checked the log five days a week, prowling for any scrap she could splash across the front page of the Mitford Muse, owned by the husband of the MPD police captain.
Her husband would sell his grandma for a good story. But even if it didn’t circulate in the newspaper, it would definitely circulate by word of mouth. Roughly twenty minutes is what it took for news to spread through Mitford like a brush fire.
As she opened the station door, her heart was doing a number under the badge she had worn for six years plus change.
Why was she making herself miserable? Nobody had witnessed it. What was the big deal? Maybe it was her new blood pressure med.
She breathed in.
So, okay. No citation.
Really, all she needed was a reminder. Something she could keep in her sock drawer where J.C. would never lay eyes on it, but she would see it every morning.
She breathed out.
Yes. Good. She would write herself a warning.
Coot Hendrick was feeling entirely cured. Upper respiratory somethin’ or other—he could not recall exactly what had made him so sick. All he knew was, he had never smoked, so his conscience was clear. He stood at the big window in his upstairs apartment over Happy Endings bookstore and worked out his list for the day.
He would finally be able to do everything that needed doin’: Vacuum the store, wash the front windows, haul off the recycling, dust the books, an’ whatever else Miz Murphy and Sister Louise wanted him to do, or even Grace, who sometimes asked him to catch her a frog or a housefly or a turtle so she could draw it.
Get stamps, he needed to get stamps for their mail-order business. An’ put his bedclothes in th’ washer in the basement. It would be nice to have clean bedclothes to look forward to when he finished his book tonight, and Lord knows, he hated to finish it. He’d got so used to that book, it was like he was livin’ in a whole other place.
He remembered there was a piece of Miz Bolick’s Orange Marmalade Cake still in the freezer. He would set that out to thaw and eat it tonight after he finished his book. He got a shiver of joy rememberin’ how that cake looked settin’ on his little table and how it was just for him, to help him get well. Miz Bolick had brought it up to the store and said to Miz Murphy, ‘This is for Coot, who is one of Mitford’s town fixtures.’ It was a solemn honor to be called a town fixture.
Excerpted from "To Be Where You Are"
Copyright © 2017 Jan Karon.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Reading Group Guide
1. Father Tim says that he’s “beyond serving the mission field” but realizes that his own town is a mission field. Managing the Local for a desperately ill Avis Packard, he sacrifices several months of his time and energy. Think of your own life—have you ever had to make sacrifices for someone you love? What was most challenging about the experience?
2. Do you believe Sammy can one day forgive his mother? Have you ever had to forgive a deep wound?
3. Do you think Sammy let Pauline win the pool game? If so, why would he do that?
4. All three generations of Kavanaghs seem eager to verbally express their love for each other. For example, there’s Dooley’s “I love you big,” and their classic family exchange of “Love you!” followed by the familiar “Love you back!” What are other ways of expressing love? How do you express love to your family and friends?
5. Jan Karon loves animals, and has a special affection for dogs. In To Be Where You Are, dogs and cats seem to sprout in nearly every chapter. Father Tim resisted having another dog; he felt betrayed when Gus was pressed on him. Have you ever learned to love an unwelcome gift? Do you believe animals can be good for our health? Have you had an experience in which your pet helped you in some way?
6. Is anyone in your family or circle of friends an artist, budding or accomplished? Do you support and encourage their gift? How can encouragement affect creative work?
7. In To Be Where You Are, the three generations live their lives within the same time frame, just twenty minutes away from each other. What do you think the older generation owes the younger, and vice versa?
8. Father Tim and Cynthia’s Christmas observance this year is rich, but comparatively simple: a tree, an oyster pie, midnight mass, and two gifts each. What is your ideal way to enjoy Christmas?
9. Toward the end of the book, Brooke Logan listens to but rejects Father Tim’s counsel on forgiveness. He doesn’t pursue her reasoning, but lets her know she can call him anytime. Has anyone ever resisted your help when you tried to lend them a hand? What happened, and why do you think they reacted the way they did?
10. If you are among the readers who have followed Tim and Cynthia through the Mitford series, you know them like family. Where do you think they will go on this major vacation . . . other than to Henry’s wedding?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love reading the Mitford Series! After a long day at work, dinner eaten and dishes done, jammies on and a cup of hot tea nearby, I relax with Father Tim and Cynthia. Great read with characters that seem like old friends you haven't seen for a while, but pick up with right where you left off! Thank you Jan!!!
Oh my, she's done it again! I read her first book some years ago & was drawn to Mitford & its people from the first sentence. I've been hooked ever since. Hoping this won't be the last time I get to visit.
I've been waiting a long time for this book.
Hope there will be a number 15?
Another great resd. I love visiting mitford, if only in my dreams.
Hope it wont be so long before we're gifted with another part of this loving family's story.
Mitford Always Cares For It’s Own [ I received this advanced copy from NetGalley and chose to review it] “Grace caught her breath. A story was like opening a door; you never knew what you would find on the other side.” And after all these years and all these stories yo still can’t be sure about what’s on the other side! In this, the latest novel of Jan Karon’s long running series, it feels as if the next generation is outrunning Father Tim, Cynthia and all of the people we have grown to love. Birth, death, love,forgiveness, help, thanksgiving, the miraculous, all tied together and sitting waiting on “the prayer when no other will do.” Dooley and Lace settled at Meadowgate, Dooley’s siblings pretty much all check in. It’s amazing how far Father Tim’s parish reaches. Grandchildren, for real or chosen, promises of new adventures as struggling with change makes the whole world different. But, as former Mayor Esther always says: “Mitford Takes Care of Its Own” While the author and her readers grow older and somewhat wiser, some newer readers coming to Mitford for the first time have reported it as “boring” and can’t understand why long time readers like myself are so defensive of this sleepy little town. Mitford and it’s residents may struggle with computers, and traveling vets, and texting in part because they prove that life is fleeting. If you aren’t careful, you can lose that “spark in your eye”, call it whatever you will. This reader has loved Jan Karon for a good deal of her life and celebrates a new book when it comes onto the horizon, and “To Be Where You Are” is no exception. Highly recommended.
Have absolutely loved the Mitford books and watching Dooley grow into adulthood. Hope there is another to come so we can meet the new baby.
Thank You For Your Books ,,,I Cry,,Laugh,,Celebrate With Father Tim. You Have Given Me My Life Verse Philippians 4:13 Thank You. I Love How Much Closer I Feel To God When I'm Reading Your Books. I'm So Glad God Gave Me You And Father Tim. Love To You. God Bless You Tina Bowling
Nice holiday story about the residents of the town of Mitford. I think my two favorite things about Jan Karon’s writing are the range of ages of her characters, and the fact she doesn’t feel a need to stoop to vulgarity. A gifted writer doesn’t need to do that. As I read more of her books, I am beginning to see why they brought such joy to my late mother, who lived near the town on which the books are supposedly based. Karon does a great job of character development, and even if you haven’t read previous books, by the end of this one, you will feel like you know these people. I guess I have only one little complaint. Having lived in several small towns through the years, I know that there are both good and bad aspects. I think Karon portrays Mitford through “rose-colored glasses.” But perhaps that is because she loves the town and its residents so much, and that is a good thing.
Mitford lives in my heart; just as my heart lives in Mitford.
I'm always looking down the road to the next Father Tim adventure. Thank you,Jan Karon, for sharing these people's li ves and for whom we have grown to love and learn from in each one of your books. I recommend this series to everyone!
What a joy and comfort to once again journey to Mitford. Mrs. Karon has allowed her readers to reconnect with old friends. Just like with friends you haven't seen in a while, but dearly love, you pick up right where you left off without missing a beat. Thank you for your continuity in story and style. Looking forward to the birth of baby Kav' na.
Bravo, well done!
Always love these books.
This was wonderful
Enchanted stories about enchanting people. We need more stories like this-many more.
Loved it as I have all the Mitford books It is so nice to read books with a christian emphasis
Once again I have spent happy days with Father Tim and company in Mitford and after a joyous reunion I am loathe to leave. Like sinking into a cozy armchair wrapped in a warm sweater with pockets, returning to Mitford is like coming home!
How wonderful to read a book that speaks to your heart. Mitford truly is a home away from home.
Readers of Jan Karon’s Mitford novels will be at home again here, happy to be where they are in a new tale of familiar times, people and places. Characters age convincingly—pleasing for readers who also watch the passing years. Difficult situations grow toward natural and pleasing conclusions. Help is offered for those in need, sometimes from unexpected places. And enjoyable insights reveal the paths of lives not yet fully explored. The challenges in this novel feel very real, from a young mother offered an assignment that might keep her away from home, to an old man wondering if life still has any meaning. A changing world affects people differently, but what stays the same is found “where you are,” among good people who just might help, even if you try not to let them. Where you are, living in the present, in the place, is surely a good place to be. And what seems impossible just might be made easy from a different point of view. I love this series, and I love sharing it with my mother. We both look forward to more. Disclosure: My mum got it for Christmas
Like all of Jan Karon’s novels, this is a breath of fresh air for the mind and soul.
Another great Mitford story!
As always, it feels like getting a long letter from family, I.e. Henry, to be able to hear all the news from “home”. I am aging along with the original characters and we share our blessings and trials. Please keep us up to date in Mitford. It is the place we all wish we could Live! God bless you, Jan.
I have loved Mitford and all it’s wonderful characters from the 1st book. Each book gets better, we learn more about the people, and can’t wait for the next book to catch up on all the adventures.