Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book review: "The Son of Laughter"

Buechner, Frederick. The Son of Laughter. [San Francisco]: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993. 

Buechner’s beautiful novel retells in raw detail the story of Jacob – a life filled with trickery, pain and sorrow, yet illuminated by a vision of stars. The novel takes Jacob from childhood through the deceptions he and his mother perpetrate on damaged, blind father Isaac and brother Esau, as well as the tricks Jacob’s father-in-law perpetuate on him, and finally back to the desert where Jacob’s sons play the ultimate trick on their father. All these characters, whom Buechner vividly depicts, wrestle constantly with the Fear, a god they cannot see – in opposition to the idols they still worship, whose faces are cast in stone. Jacob’s life is filled with loss and pain – his struggles with his brother and his father-in-law; the loss of Rachel, first through trickery and then through death; the brutality of his sons; and the loss of Joseph, his beloved’s son. Yet Jacob holds to the promise of the Fear, whose visions sustain him. The Fear is a god of the living, in contrast to the Black Land (Egyptian) gods who govern death. Buechner intends for us to look back to this time to draw lessons for our own relationship with God, and he foreshadows the kinds of questions Jesus answered for Christians about sin, death and life with the Father. Jacob, the central character, may at times appear a cipher, but Buechner invests the breath of life into all the other characters surrounding him, particularly flawed Isaac, connman Laman and Potipher’s lustful life. 

No comments: