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The Son of Laughter
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The Son of Laughter

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  441 ratings  ·  55 reviews
Rich in family drama, passion, and human affinity, critically acclaimed author Frederick Buechner's contemporary retelling of this captivating and timeless biblical saga revitalizes the ancient story of Jacob, delighted our senses and modern sensibilities and gracing us with his exceptional eloquence and wit.
ebook, 288 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1993)
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I first became acquainted with this book after reading an excerpt of it in another book, and decided then and there to read it. The Son of Laughter is a retelling of the story of Jacob (and by extension, Issac, Joseph, and even maybe Abraham) - his life, his family, and his encounters with God.

Frederick Buechner is, first of all, a fantastic writer. His prose is elegant. His retelling is delightfully detailed and imaginative, while still faithful enough to the Biblical text enough to to satisfy...more
Got this for Christmas. It's one of Buechner's sad, earthy fictions, this time about the Biblical character of Jacob.

Buechner writes so immediately about being human. There are few writers I enjoy reading more. His work is entirely free of frivolity and distraction, and offers a sublime view of people completely engaged in living their lives, a wonder no matter what they suffer. Like Tolstoy, he writes about individuals in all their glorious individual strangeness, like they're your family. From...more
When another person puts into words what I want to say better than I ever could on my own, I have no qualms quoting them. And so here is Joel's review:

"Whenever he applies his re-imagination to the story of a saint or of characters in the Bible, Buechner always manages in his own way to (1) capture how radically foreign these characters are to my own perspective, experience and sensibilities, and (2) to work out in a ramshackle way what it could look like to embody what it means to be God's bles...more
Jamie Howison
This is the third time I've read this extraordinary novel. Every sermon I've ever preached on the Genesis stories of the matriarchs and patriarchs bears the imprint of this book... if I could give it a sixth star, I would!
Be wary of God's blessings ...
I read this book on recommendation from a friend. She loves this book and wanted to share it with me. Now, it was a far cry from the young adult literature that I have gotten used to reading, and I wondered what I was going to get out of it. Buechner beautifully crafted this earthy drama covering the life of the Biblical forefather Jacob. Although his writing style is terrific and I enjoyed his literary genius, the walk-away message for me came at the end of the novel: "[God] makes us no promise...more
I think that Buechner is an amazing author.

While I was disappointed with THE STORM (and I realize that I'm in the minority on that), this book was quite exceptional.

First, I didn't realize, before reading it, that it would be an historical fiction account of Jabob (of Jacob and Esau notariety). I have to admit that I might not have been as eager to read it, had I been aware of that. There's something about historical biblical fiction that has not held a great deal of appeal to me. That might ch...more
gabrielle darnell
I often stay away from novels that elaborate on Biblical stories because I don't want to an untrue image/characterization to stick with me as I read the Bible. BUT, I am glad I read The Son of Laughter -- the story of Jacob and the covenant family that he sprang from and gave birth to. Buechner gave blood and sweat and flesh to the Biblical patriarchs. He showed God to be the fierce, mysterious, and faithful being that He is, calling Him "the Fear". I saw the pain and tenderness of a man's heart...more
If you want a beautifully written story of the life of Jacob from the Old Testament, here is an earthy description of life during that time in history and an insightful look into the heart of this great man of God. I have read ths in scripture many times, but this opened up the host of people connected to Jacob and put light into their relationship with their God.
I really enjoyed the story in this book, but the style was not great for me.

This a major part of Genesis told from Jacob's point of view. This has long been one of my favorite parts of the Bible- I love the story of Jacob working fourteen years for Rachel, of him & his brother, and of course the story of Joseph, Jacob's 11th son is probably my all time fave. So. I was super excited when a friend let me borrow this.

And I did like it. But the writing just wasn't my style. I can't pinpoint exa...more
An expanded account of the life of Biblical patriarch Jacob in the first person, this book brings to life the early Old Testament. Buechner uses his sanctified imagination to stories from Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac (and how that affected him) to Isaac's blessing of Jacob over Esau, to Joseph's rise to power in Egypt. (I confess I like the Joseph part the best.) Earthy and real, this book will expand your understanding of God's promises to his people from the beginning.
Taryn Chase
Much recommended to me, I finally picked up this historical fiction about the life of the Old Testament character, Jacob. I've enjoyed Buechner's nonfiction thoroughly and wasn't sure i could get into this, but once he snared me with his writing style, I couldn't put it down. Although based on the Bible, this isn't for the faint of heart--a lot of grit here, both sexual and violent, but written in a poetic, non-offensive way. If you've ever wanted the Bible to read more realistically, I highly r...more
This is a very entertaining account of the book of Genesis the Bible.
Buechner brings it to life with vivid descriptions of the day to day thoughts and practices of the ancient peoples. I don't know how many times I encountered the word dung or spittle...
This book was fun to read and also shed light on ancient nomadic life in the time of the biblical patriarchs.
He often seems to take an alternate reading or interpretation in scriptural accounts that might upset people - But not really in major wa...more
An imaginative retelling of the biblical story of Jacob & his family. It was certainly more satisfying than the other book by Buechner that I have read, and more satisfying, too, than Norman Mailer's retelling of the Jesus narrative. Mailer seemed bound by the biblical narrative, except at certain odd points he rejected (NOT the miracles, however); Buechner, on the other hand, seemed inspired by Jacob's story. He went well beyond it in creating details & interpreting events, though when...more
Excellent translation of the Bible story of Jacob from childhood to death. Vivid and timely detail added.
You can't beat the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and their families for drama and interest. I had read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant years ago which told much the same story as this, fleshing out the Bible's account by telling it from the women's point of view, and going beyond it to tell more about Jacob's daughter, Dinah. The Son of Laughter was less detailed (except for certain aspects) and more poetic than The Red Tent. I think that The Red Tent made more of an impression on me beca...more
A very forthright, crude re-telling of the adventures of Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and their families. It can open your eyes to the messiness that is life with God. The people in the Bible are not saints, and their lives were not rainbow-colored picture books, but smelly, messy, sinful bumblings. Although I have liked other fictional incarnations of Bible stories better (like The Robe by Lloyd Douglas!), this book was thought-provoking especially since we are reading Genesis in Sunday School.
Marilyn Mcentyre
I don't like all of Buechner's work, but I like his lively retellings of biblical stories. He has an imagination for ancient desert culture that both makes it accessible and preserves the mystery of its alien quality for contemporary readers. This one offers a complex portrayal of Jacob--cunning, needy, open, ambivalent, and confused--and, toward the end, of Joseph and his brothers. An adventurous, inviting treatment of stories that leave much room for speculation.
Whenever he applies his re-imagination to the story of a saint or of characters in the Bible, Buechner always manages in his own way to (1) capture how radically foreign these characters are to my own perspective, experience and sensibilities, and (2) to work out in a ramshackle way what it could look like to embody what it means to be God's blessing to the world.

This re-crafting of Jacob's story from the book of Genesis is a shining example.
Steve Penner
I have enjoyed everything that Buechner has written. His works of fiction have been especially meaningful. It's hard to find contemporary fiction that has depth and a richness that goes beyond the superficiality of what is presently marketed. This story helped me to see Genesis in the rawness of its original setting. May be unsettling to some who would like to whitewash the Biblical record, but worth stretching the mind in this case.
DJ Dycus
Buechner brings such life to his stories--he creates flesh-and-blood characters out of the (sometimes thin) biblical narrative.
A retelling of the life of Jacob from the Bible. It started out interesting but it got kind of old. After a while it felt like there wasn't anything new or interesting to the story. One of the hazards of retelling old tales like this.

Part of my low rating is probably due to my high expectations for Buechner. I love his stuff and this one just didn't hit the mark for me.
Fraser Coltman
This is a well-imagined telling of the story of the Biblical patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) in the voice of Jacob. It offers powerful insights into events like the offering of Isaac at Moriah, Jacob's life in Haran, and Joseph's descent and ascent in Egypt that make you think more carefully about those events.
Buechner does a marvelous job of humanizing the patriarchs without losing the redemptive purpose. My one complaint would be that the 'earthiness' of the story, which is at first a bit startling and refreshing, by the end seems a bit like a parlor trick.

Still, this is a minor complaint for an otherwise powerful book.
Derek Emerson
Buechner has a realistic, earthly understanding of our faith which helps offset the sanctified versions we too often read. His story of Jacob holds true to the Biblical version of course, but he adds the dirt and sand into the mix. Similar to what Kazantzakis did earlier, but with a far more theologically sound basis.
Greg Taylor
Buechner brings out the humanity of Abraham, Sarah so that you believe they really are people who lived, had faith, sinned, laughed at God's messenger, then named their son "laughter," or Isaac. Buechner's one of my favorite writers, and his essays and sermons books are some of the best of their kind.
Tyler Hartford
One of the best religious fiction books I have ever read. Based on the life of Jacob (Heels) and his relationships with Esau (Hairy) and other members of his family. So incredibly poetic and insightful, yet an easy read for someone just getting into Buechner. A must for pastors.
Although Buechner provides interesting perspective on the humaness of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I don't enjoy his existentialist style of writing. His style is much toned down in "Son of Laughter" compared to his "Godric", which I started and had to return after a few pages.
Jessica Kantrowitz
I read almost the whole thing, but just couldn't rally the energy to finish it. I'm not a big fan of Buechner, either his stylistic writing -- like this or Godric -- or his realism -- The Return of Ansel Gibbs. Maybe I would like his non-fiction better.
Excellent read. Not "sanitized" as most Biblical stories are often related. If you have an aversion to biological / sexual references in Bible stories, this may not be for you. Keep in mind that this is a fictional work based on the story of Jacob.
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Frederick Buechner is a highly influential writer and theologian who has won awards for his poetry, short stories, novels and theological writings. His work pioneered the genre of spiritual memoir, laying the groundwork for writers such as Anne Lamott, Rob Bell and Lauren Winner.

His first book, A Long Day's Dying, was published to acclaim just two years after he graduated from Princeton. He entere...more
More about Frederick Buechner...
Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner Godric The Sacred Journey: A Memoir of Early Days Telling Secrets

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“The Shield was another of the Fear's names. According to Laughter, it means he shields the seed of Abraham the way a man starting a fire shields the flame. When Sarah was about to die childless, the Fear gave her a son. When Abraham was about to slaughter the son, the Fear gave him the ram. He is always shielding us like a guttering wick, Laughter said, because the fire he is trying to start with us is a fire that the whole world will live to warm its hands at. It is a fire in the dark that will light the whole world home.” 6 likes
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