Open Heart (1972)
Open Heart is the second of the four "Books of Bebb."
From the publisher: “Readers of Frederick Buechner's brilliant and startlingly funny novel Lion Country will be delighted to hear that he has engaged the same cast of characters for this new book. Of the earlier book, Louis Auchincloss said, ‘One reads Lion Country, Buechner's finest novel to date, with hope and delight.’ And a flood of reviews covering the entire country agreed with him that in Leo Bebb, the ambiguous head of a religious diploma mill, Buechner had created one of his most startling and complex characters.”
In Open Heart he continues the story, employing again as narrator Antonio Parr, now married to Bebb's adopted daughter Sharon and teaching at a high school in Connecticut. The book opens with the outlandish events surrounding the death of Herman Redpath, the Indian millionaire who was Bebb's patron. Having left a small fortune in Redpath's will, Bebb moves North where he tries to launch another dubious venture in evangelism. The disappearance of his wife, the emergence out of his past of the enigmatic Mr. Golden, the imperiled marriage of Sharon and Antonio are among the complications that he tries to cope with on the side. Open Heart is if possible more entertaining than Lion Country, and certainly no less suggestive of meaning somewhere beyond itself. It is written with the distinction that one has come to expect of one of our best stylists.
“Open Heart, by Frederick Buechner, is simply wonderful. It's a book to be happy with, for it is enchantingly funny...this is a first-rate novel that can be relished on whatever level you choose…Buechner is more than a good writer; he always has been a superb craftsman and one who dealt with important subjects.”
— Margaret Manning, Boston Globe
“He has composed a very well-written, striking, humorous story. It is a pleasure to read and difficult to put down.”
— Peter Rowley, Chicago Sun-Times
“Mr. Buechner has an engaging comic sense, a firm theological clarity of mind, and a mastery of prose whereby he can get practically any effect in the novelist's bag of tricks.”
— Guy Davenport, National Review
“Good news. Frederick Buechner, who has quietly become one of America's finest novelists, has just published an extraordinary new novel called Open Heart.”
— Michael Putney, The National Observer
“Whenever a writer allows me to enter a new world of imagination, I am grateful. He has somehow performed the magic of creating a story that is even more pleasant to remember than to read. If you do the latter, Buechner will enable you to do the former.”
— Robert Baker, The Christian Century
“Open Heart will ask what we are to do with emptiness and loss.”
— W. Dale Brown, The Book of Buechner