Thousands of readers have come home to Mitford, the little town with the big heart, whose endearing and eccentric residents have become like family members. But now change is coming to the hamlet. Father Tim, the Episcopal rector, and his wife Cynthia are pondering retirement; a brash new mayoral candidate is calling for aggressive development; a suspicious realtor with plans for a health spa is eyeing the beloved house on the hill; and, worst of all, the Sweet Stuff Bakery may be closing. Meanwhile, ordinary people are leading the extraordinary lives that hundreds of thousands of readers have found so inviting and inspiring. Peopled with the lovable cast of characters familiar to so many, and peppered with plenty of new and colorful personalities, Out to Canaan is filled to the brim with the mysteries and miracles that make everyday life worth living, and that make Mitford one of the most memorable small towns in recent literature.
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July 28, 2002
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Excerpt from Out to Canaan by Jan Karon
A Tea and a Half
The indoor plants were among the first to venture outside and breathe the fresh, cold air of Mitford's early spring.
Eager for a dapple of sunlight, starved for the revival of mountain breezes, dozens of begonias and ferns, Easter lilies and Wandering Jews were set out, pot-bound and listless, on porches throughout the village.
As the temperature soared into the low fifties, Winnie Ivey thumped three begonias, a sullen gloxinia, and a Boston fern onto the back steps of the house on Lilac Road, where she was now living. Remembering the shamrock, which was covered with aphids, she fetched it from the kitchen and set it on the railing.
"There!" she said, collecting a lungful of the sharp, pure air. "That ought to fix th' lot of you."
When she opened the back door the following morning, she was stricken at the sight. The carefully wintered plants had been turned to mush by a stark raving freeze and minor snow that also wrenched any notion of early bloom from the lilac bushes.
It was that blasted puzzle she'd worked until one o'clock in the morning, which caused her to forget last night's weather news. There she'd sat like a moron, her feet turning to ice as the temperature plummeted, trying to figure out five letters across for a grove of trees.
Racked with guilt, she consoled herself with the fact that it had, at least, been a chemical-free way to get rid of aphids.
At the hardware, Dora Pugh shook her head and sighed. Betrayed by yesterday's dazzling sunshine, she had done display windows with live baby chicks, wire garden fencing, seeds, and watering cans. Now she might as well haul the snow shovels back and do a final clearance on salt for driveways.
Coot Hendrick collected his bet of five dollars and an RC Cola from Lew Boyd. "Ain't th' first time and won't be th' last you'll see snow in May," he said, grinning. Lew Boyd hated it when Coot grinned, showing his stubs for teeth. He mostly hated it that, concerning weather in Mitford, the skeptics, cynics, and pessimists were usually right.
"Rats!" said Cynthia Kavanagh, who had left a wet scatter rug hanging over the rectory porch rail. Lifting it off the rail, she found it frozen as a popsicle and able to stand perfectly upright.