Let me start this column by saying I’ve always had a special fondness in my reading repertoire for what I call Village books. These usually consist of a series of books, all taking place in the same little village with the same cast of quirky, friendly memorable characters.
People who by the end of the first book seem as familiar to you as your next door neighbor. You know the streets, corners and places in their fictional villages as well as you do the places in your own hometown. Books that you anticipate more and more with each new publication cherishing the chance to catch up with old friends and the world they inhabit. The Little House Books, Anne of Green Gables, Miss read, Harry Potter, I’ve devoured them all.
And with the little town of Harmony, I’ve discovered another deliciously wonderful village to visit and revisit again and again. My first visit to Harmony began when I happened to find Home to Harmony by Philip Gulley at my local library. Opening his book later that day I fell into the little town of Harmony, Indiana and the lives of the Quaker pastor Sam Gardner, his family and his parishioners.
The book had an almost Mayberry type comfort from the first chapter, wrapping me into it’s pages as if I were there. Simple stories held my interest, Like the yearly quilt, sewn by the Friendly Women’s Circle to be raffled. That was until it was hung and the face of Jesus mysteriously appeared in it. I won’t take away the mystery of the story or the sweet deliciousness of its ending but suffice it to say I left that story with a smile.
Characters both,permanent residents and those who appear temporarily both add color to the books setting. Residents like Deena Morrison, lawyer turned owner of the Legal Grounds Coffee Shop and the a preacher who bills himself as the World’s Shortest Evangelist. The village and it’s characters stuck with me long after the first book was returned.
Which is why I was thrilled during my most recent visit to find Gulley’s second Harmony installment, Just Shy of Harmony, on the bookshelf. When I got home that afternoon, Gulley’s book was the first one from my new pile of books I dove into. Very quickly I was back in Harmony wrapped up in the pastor’s personal crisis of Faith. Skillfully intertwined with this story are lighter moments as well such as Goal-Setting Sunday and Dale Henshaw’s Scripture Egg project. A mystery involving a wife’s leaving and return also keeps the reader turning the pages. Gulley’s writing is masterful having me chuckling one moment and on the verge of tears the next moment.
My only regret is that my visits to harmony go by far too quickly yet I am already anticipating my next visit there. Harmony, Indiana is a place readers are going to want to visit again and again. And it awaits as do thousands of other wonderful adventures at the local library.