THE WIZARD'S TIDE by Frederick Buechner


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Once-prolix Buechner (Love Feast, Godric, Truth, etc.) now offers a novella-length memoir--possibly best-suited for a YA audience--that concerns a spendthrift family faced with the Great Depression. Teddy Schroeder, 11, and his sister Bean, 8, faintly echo Salinger--though Teddy, whose point of view dominates the story, is hardly a Salinger-esque prodigy. In the beginning, his father is fired (""The well's run dry. The party's over""), and the Schroeder life-style--which consists of movements between a stucco house in New Jersey, a big house in Pittsburgh, and a house on Long Island--is cramped by bleak prospects. Set pieces include a birthday party, a portrait of Grandpa Schroeder (who has lost his job and sits around the house smoking a pipe) and a trip to N.Y.C. to see The Mikado (the latter scene is similar to a more vigorous rendering of a brother, sister outing in Buechner's early Lion Country). The Schroeder father then invests in a glass business with money borrowed from his mother, as well as with additional cash procured by secretly selling his wife's stocks. The business fails, and the father--after leaving his watch under Teddy's pillow--goes to town and pitches himself onto the subway tracks. The suicide, however, doesn't seem to bother placid Teddy: ""He had done it because he had had to do it, so it was all right."" At the close, the family moves to Pittsburgh, where Uncle Dan takes them in--and where the Christmas celebrated is short on goodies but high on the tide of familial love (""no matter how far the low tide goes out, the high tide always comes in again as high as ever""). Put this one on the shelf next to Jonathan Livingston Seagull Inspirational and likable--but greatly overshadowed by Buechner's robust, God-soaked earlier work (especially Lion Country and its companion volumes about religious gum/charlatan Bebb).

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
Publisher: Harper & Row