By Jeffrey Munroe (InterVarsity Press, 2019)
The great blessing of the reading life is discovering an author whose writing presents a frame of one's own spiritual journey, offering companionship in wrestling with life's big questions. When we find such an author, we know we are not alone in the world.
For Jeffrey Munroe, Frederick Buechner is that companion. In Reading Buechner, Munroe presents the life and work of Buechner in three movements: Buechner as memoirist, novelist, and popular theologian.
In each of these realms the engine of Buechner's work is the need to find God in the central wound of his life: his father's suicide when Buechner was only a child. Munroe chronicles Buechner's journey through theological study, becoming a parent himself, therapy and 12-step programs, and most of all writing and how Buechner was transformed through his struggle to find meaning in the tragic loss. How do we reconcile God's sovereignty with human freedom? Why does God permit suffering?
Buechner's credibility comes from his willingness to honestly engage this wound. In doing so he offers Munroe--and all of us--a Christian witness of how to grow from the pain that is a part of the human experience.
Munroe describes Buechner's work as "full of paradox and ambiguity, with a sense of God's grace always lurking just below the surface with open eyes and ears ready to see and hear." He presents a sympathetic portrait of Buechner, but he isn't beyond offering some honest critique.
Munroe walks the reader through Buechner's written works in an accessible and conversational way and is clear that he hopes other readers will also find in Buechner a spiritual companion on the page.
--Sister Rhonda Miska, O.P.