The Eyes of the Heart (1999)
A Memoir of the Lost and Found
From critically acclaimed author and Pulitzer Prize runner-up, Frederick Buechner delivers another powerfully honest memoir, The Eyes of the Heart. Full of poignant insights into his most personal relationships, this moving account traces how the author was shaped as much by his family's secrets as by its celebrations. Within the innermost chambers of his consciousness, Buechner, in his characteristically self-searching style, explores the mysteries and truths behind his deepest connections to family, friends, and mentors. Extraordinarily moving, this memoir follows not chronology but the converging paths of Buechners’ imagination and memory. Buechner invites us into his library—his own Magic Kingdom. Surrounded by his beloved books and treasures, we discover how they serve as the gateway to Buechner's mind and heart. He draws the reader into his recollections, moving seamlessly from reminiscence to contemplation. Buechner recounts events such as the tragic suicide of his father and its continual fallout on his life, intimate and little-known details about his deep friendship with the late poet James Merrill, and his ongoing struggle to understand the complexities of his relationship to his mother. This cast of characters comprised of Buechner's relatives and loved ones is brought to vibrant life by his peerless writing and capacity to probe the depths of his own consciousness. Buechner visits his past with an honest eye and a heart open to the most painful and life-altering of realizations. Heartbreaking and enlightening, The Eyes of the Heart is a treasure for anyone who has ever pondered the meaning and mystery of their own past. As "one of our finest writers," according to author Annie Dillard, “Frederick Buechner provides yet another chapter in the tale of his life in this gripping memoir tracing the complicated roots and path of his inner life and family, with their multitude of intersections." The Eyes of the Heart stands as a touching testimonial to the significance of kinship to the author, as well as to the legions of readers who have come to regard him as one of their own.
"Unlike some Christian writers, Frederick Buechner has never claimed to have a ringside seat to the truth. ‘I have seen with the eyes of the heart the great hope to which He has called us,’ he writes, ‘but out of shyness...I rarely speak of it, and in my books I have tended to write about it for the most part only obliquely.’ This very reticence, however, is one of the qualities that most endears this writer to his fans: we trust him all the more because he does not deny his own doubts."
— Doug Thorpe
"Old friends and new readers alike will be delighted...in this extraordinarily moving and beautifully written memoir [in which] Buechner reflects on life, faith, friendship, and family."
"An impressive addition to Buechner's oeuvre."
— Pam Kingsbury, Library Journal
"With humility, empathy, and honesty, Buechner invites us to see life, and death, with the 20/20 vision offered by the eyes of the heart."
— Boston Globe
"Frederick Buechner is one of my favorite writers. The Eyes of the Heart is beautiful and wise, full of insight, charm, and tenderness."
— Anne Lamott
"How beautifully written is this thin volume, above and apart from the current of our times and deeply within the current of the truth. It is the author's remarkable genius for the truth that gives his deceptively simple memoir the heart and soul of a great book."
— Mark Helprin
"In this deeply moving memoir, filled with mortality, gratitude, and joy, Buechner invites us to see (as he has seen) with the eyes of the heart."
— Marcus J. Borg
"It's a splendid book, a genuinely spiritual memoir which avoids the lugubrious and the sentimental but invites the reader into a level most other memoirs do not. He demonstrates a capacity to cope with tragedy that will be immensely helpful to other people when faced with similar woundings." — Harvey Cox, Thomas Professor of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School
"Profound, beautiful, wrenching at times, and unassumingly wise—The Eyes of the Heart will be one of my book treasures. I will probably read it once a year, and I suspect many other Buechner lovers will do likewise. I recommend it to everyone. It has the feel already of a classic."
— Gail Godwin