Reading Buechner: Exploring the Works of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher

Reviewed by:

G. Connor Salter, Professional Writing alumnus from Taylor University, Upland, IN.


Jeffrey Munroe


InterVarsity Press

Publication Date:

November 19, 2019




232 pages


Frederick Buechner first hit the literary scene in 1950 with his acclaimed novel A Long Day’s Dying. A few years later, he shocked those readers by converting to Christianity and becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister. Since then, he’s walked an unusual path, writing novels and assorted nonfiction that present spiritual ideas, but not in the ways most people are used to. Jeffrey Munroe analyzes Buechner’s career and spiritual life, with different sections considering different genres Buechner has written in. The sections look at what are arguably Buechner’s best books:

– The memoirs The Sacred Journey, Now and Then, Telling Secrets and The Eyes of the Heart

– The novels Godrick and The Son of Laughter

– The theology texts Wishful Thinking and Peculiar Treasure

– The sermon collections Telling the Truth and Secrets in the Dark

Along the way, Munroe speculates on why Buechner’s never gotten more attention, even as widely different groups have praised his work.

Biographies or analyses of a person’s work can easily become gushing descriptions of how great that person is. This is especially true for writers like Buechner who are in their eighties or nineties, with their careers mostly finished and scholars finally taking them seriously after decades of neglect. Munroe dodges that particular bullet and presents Buechner as he is, warts and all. While he makes some effort to show where Buechner fits denominationally, Munroe doesn’t claim that Buechner really fits into anyone’s box. In fact, he leans into the idea that Buechner’s work is great because it’s sometimes controversial. The Bible is filled with strange and scandalous ideas, and writers who want to embrace its full message must sometimes write about strange and scandalous ideas. Munroe shows this insight is key to understanding this seminal author.

An excellent guide to Frederick Buechner’s work.


Rating (1 to 5 stars)

5 stars

Suggested Audience

Readers interested in Frederick Buechner’s work, including diehard fans and people just becoming familiar with his work. Also recommended for writers who are trying to balance writing fiction and nonfiction.

Christian Impact

Readers will be encouraged and challenged by Buechner’s ideas, particularly his idea the Gospel needs to be seen as “tragedy, comedy and fairy tale” all at once. These ideas will lead them to a stronger faith that embraces the paradoxes that are at the heart of following God.


Readers who want to dig more into Buechner’s work and legacy may also enjoy The Book of Buechner: A Journey Through His Writing by Dale Brown

Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacher

About ECLA Web Team

The Evangelical Church Library Association, founded in 1970, is a fellowship of Christian churches, schools, and individuals. This account is managed by the ECLA Web Team.


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