This book, it seems to me, must be a cathartic journey for Buechner, reminiscing about so many events in his past. He tells the story of his father's suicide (again) as well as that of meeting the priest wearing black gaiters (again) and that of his brother crying in Bermuda (again and again) and his mother's comments about the gardener passing by (again). He spends pages describing books in his Magic Kingdom, as he calls his office/library.
Included, from time to time, is an insight about remembering and perhaps another about healing. We all experience pain, he writes, and handle it in ways that are not good. Buechner wants us to be good stewards of our pain. He writes of “the importance of being able to talk and live out of your pain … of pain becoming a treasure...” (32) These are good insights but his rambling stories, memories of events from his past, greatly over shadow and obscure them.
I am not sure there is much of value in this book for evangelical Christians. When writing about what happens after you die, for example, Buechner suggests “you are given back your life again...” He had three reasons for believing it. First, if he were God that's what he'd do. Second, he had a hunch it was true. Third, because Jesus said we aren't dead forever, referencing what Jesus said to the thief on the cross. (76-77) Buechner made no mention of Paul and his New Testament insights into the life after this one.
I have just read the two latest books by Buechner in the past few days. I don't think I'll read another one by him. There was too much repetition of stories. I was not surprised to find that the footnotes indicated much of this book came from earlier ones by him. Also, many of the stories didn't appear to have much to do with the theme of the book. It seems Buechner is still trying to make sense of his father's suicide, some 80 years ago, and everything else that has happened in his life.
Perhaps there is more to Buechner's faith experience than he is willing to tell. Near the end of this book he says he fears that if he writes too much about how he has experienced holiness, “then I risk being written off as some sort of embarrassment by most of the people I know and like.” (116)
My rating: 3/5 stars.
Frederick Buechner is the author of more than thirty books. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, he has been awarded honorary degrees from several institutions. You can find out more at http://www.frederickbuechner.com/.
Zondervan, 144 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Handlebar. My comments are an independent and honest review.