LOVE FEAST by Frederick Buechner
Kirkus Star


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You can never tell about Bip. That's what he woke us up for"" -- Bip being Leo Bebb and this being the third and sad to say last book about him -- Bebb the old-time Gospel preacher, the banty, tubby version of a revivalist Pied Piper -- one of the Lord's fixers, movers and takers. And of course Buechner's finest creation to date. If as Bebb says, ""Nobody's got a corner on God's truth"" he comes close to it and there are masterful speeches here in his southern scrub country idiom which is a blend of Scriptures and vulgarisms: ""We're far from home, all of us are. Who's going to judge which one of us has got the farthest way to go through all the shit and the dark?"" During the time here, recorded once again by his son-in-law Antonio Parr, both Bebb and Antonio are well into the dark: Bebb's Open Heart tabernacle failed; Antonio's marriage to the slovenly, sleazy but alluring Sharon is faltering; worse yet, Bebb has lost his old bounce until briefly he comes back and comes on strong at the Love Feast, a kind of holy love-in which he stages at Princeton -- always accompanied by his elderly handmaiden Gertrude Conover. . . . It is broken up by the police, prefacing Bebb's disappearance and death. Throughout this series, as Buechner's admirers will remember, he has been assaying metaphysical uncertainties and testing human possibilities. Reassuringly holding out a hand -- speculatively pulling your leg. But as Bebb says, ""Time will be when the party's over. . . Time is the enemy, and the tick of the clock is the sound his toenails make pattering up on us for the kill."" Time may easily prove that Buechner's charmer-confidence man, Leo Bebb, is ultimately ordained for a longer life than most achieve in the temporal world of the novel.

Pub Date: Aug. 19th, 1974
Publisher: Atheneum