Saturday, August 1, 2020

In Praise of Escapism

I well remember the first time I read a novel from Jan Karon’s “Mitford” series. I was working in a stressful church agency job and found myself in a long layover at the Atlanta airport. To fill the time, I bought a paperback edition of a “Mitford” book at a newsstand kiosk and immersed myself in the Piedmont town of Mitford.

Karon’s cozy story didn’t have a high-stakes premise, nor did it build toward a white-hot climax. It simmered like a pot of mulling spice, suffusing the atmosphere with warmth and gentle humor. I devoured the story, reading over a hundred pages by the time my connecting flight arrived and finishing the book by day’s end.

Jan Karon called me aside from my stressful routine with an entertaining story. I enjoyed my visit so thoroughly that I looked for the sequels, and I wasn’t disappointed. Karon gave me an easy escape from unrealistic deadlines and unreasonable customers.

Escapist fiction often gets a bad rap. Critics say that it merely gives us an excuse to avoid distasteful duties. (They might say my pleasant afternoon in Mitford was a prime example!) But I believe it can give us a needed respite from the stress of the moment, so we can return to our duties with a fresh perspective.

“In the midst of COVID-19 madness, we could all use a little break,” reviewer Alice Martin says. “As the days go by, the news gets crazier and the need for social distancing gets greater. While we all gather toilet paper and schedule regular phone calls with friends and family, it’s worth stockpiling some great reads to keep us company indoors.”[1]

All of us have times when, as the poet said, “The world is too much with us.” Then a little escapism can be therapeutic, and we value stories where kindness is still a virtue, communities face their problems together, and individuals draw their strength from the Lord.

[1]Alice Martin, “10 Escapist Fiction Books to Read When You Need a Break from Reality,”


  1. I agree a thousand percent! I read every Mitford novel and loved them all. Pollyanna attitudes and escapist fiction allow for lowered blood pressure and less anxiety.
    A quarter of a century later, publishers might pass on Jan Karon's work, but I believe there will always be an audience for those who yearn for gentle times and loving families and are happy to read about them.

  2. Absolutely. I still pick that series up from time to time to listen to the audio book as I work around the house. It's a comfort and a relief not to always be worked up emotionally, yet completely engaged. It's the kind of series I'd enjoy writing too; stories that bring you home, so to speak. Thanks for posting this.