Monday, November 25, 2019

Book Review: Son of Laughter by Frederick Buechner

I read Godric and Brendan by Buechner long ago, but I think Son of Laughter is his most revelatory historical fiction. Told from the perspective of Jacob, son of Isaac (Laughter), son of Abraham, it surprises you as it tells the same story you've heard all your life (if you're like me). I especially like Buechner's character and cultural descriptions. The chapter "The Red Heifer" is the best explanation of why people sacrificed animals (goes along with Girard, by the way) and the chapter on Jacob wrestling with his Rival is a kaleidoscope shifting through all the interpretations of this enigmatic struggle, somehow cohering with the text in a way I can only describe as awesome. My quibbles are that the characters other than Jacob are a little too much the same: Abraham and Isaac, all the women, and Jacob's brothers seem too much alike. But this book is really more about the whole story and so it's fine if some characters dissolve into archetypes. The overall impact is that all the characters feel like real people and the story of Israel gains another dimension. It feels like Israel could have happened this way, and it's a down-to-earth miracle as much as the Christmas birth in a cramped stable thousands of years later.

No comments: