Monday, April 12, 2010

Home to Harmony, by Philip Gulley

This book is about life in a small, conservative Indiana town named Harmony. Life centers around faith and the book’s stories usually involve members of the Harmony Friends Meeting. The characters are so vivid, and quaint, reminding me of everything I love, and hate, about life in a small town. Written from the first person narrative point of view, we follow Sam Garner, the Harmony Friends pastor, through his first year in the pastorate of Harmony. The book is divided into the four seasons, with each season having several chapters. Typically each chapter is a story revolving around one character, but characters make appearances throughout. The set up of the book very much reminded me of the book Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson; it definitely had the same feel.

This is the first book in the Harmony series, so we really are just getting introduced to the townspeople, the lay of the land, and the pace of this Midwestern town. We learn about the sinners and the saints, peoples’ failings, the Friendly Women’s Circle, town traditions, and the humorous misunderstandings that often happen in a well intentioned ultraconservative small town. It is lighthearted at times, serious at others, and I think there is something in this book that can appeal to everyone. While the book was published by HarperCollins at large, as opposed to its Christian division, Zondervan, I still would consider this a Christian book. That being said, I think this book has wide mainstream appeal, due to the way it was written.

I have to say, I just loved this book. The storytelling in it was so tender, the characterizations so vivid. Many of the characters and situations made me recall people from my own home town. It was like being home again, reading about Harmony. Because the chapters served as mini-stories that contributed to the overall novel, it was a great book to read in down time, when I only have ten or fifteen minutes here or there. For this reason, it would make a fabulous book for a book club, especially a book club for those who may be a little book shy. The book is long and detailed enough to be engaging, but short enough to not be intimidating.

For a new series opening book, I think this was perfect. It establishes a connection between the reader and the characters, before delving into any really serious topics. After reading this book, I was excited to see where this series was going to go next.