Those looking to their fiction reading as a means of rekindling nostalgic, sepia-toned notions of a simpler time in a slower America might be well advised to seek out well-worn favorites that offer no surprises, ensuring themselves a quiet and meditative spiritual reflection. For the rest of us, however, there is The Book of Bebb
. Written in four installments throughout the 1970s, these out of print, short novels are now offered in one volume. Told through the first person narrator of urbanite Antonio Parr, the story focuses on the sometimes farcical, occasionally miraculous (in the literal sense of the word) and always mercurial exploits, actions and soliloquies of Leo Bebb. Buechner's concise take on the human condition is just as convincing amid surburban New York angst as it is in the back roads of Armadillo, Florida. Updike-like attention to detail of people and places is balanced by a fast pace, completely unpredictable plot that keeps the reader guessing as to what shoe will be the next to drop. Buechner peppers the narrative with morally flawed archetypes that embody every human foible imaginable, from acute hypochondria to unquestioning theosophy. We come to realize one by one, that every character we encounter is harboring one inner secret or another. Add to this a tone of warmth and genuinely funny mishaps and you have a formula that works on every level. Weaving all this together is tricky and would most likely fail in less capable hands, but Buechner succeeds in helping us ponder what it means to visit the doors faith may open and the consequences of believing in ourselves, others, and ultimately God Himself.
An Eighth Day View:
Pulitzer Prize finalist Frederick Buechner's quartet of outrageously witty, inspirational Bebb novels in one volume.