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Telling Secrets

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4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  765 ratings  ·  68 reviews
With eloquence, candor, and simplicity, a celebrated author tells the story of his father's alcohol abuse and suicide and traces the influence of this secret on his life as a son, father, husband, minister, and writer.
ebook, 128 pages
Published October 23rd 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published 1991)
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Jeanenne McCloskey
Just finished rereading this book, and it struck me so much more this time around. Good picture of why intentional conversations about our heart, "telling our secrets" to at least one person is so important. Good words from Frederick:

“...I have come to believe that by and large the human family all has the same secrets, which are both very telling and very important to tell. They are telling in the sense that they tell what is perhaps the central paradox of our condition—that what we hunger for
...more
Adam
I love Buechner's work, period. While reading his books, I'm frequently struck with an odd sense of familiarity, realizing only after considering that he just essentially said (in a much more eloquent manner) something that I've been wrestling with, thinking about, praying through, and more. He's incredibly quotable, as well.

'Telling Secrets' is a very personal, raw, and open book - if you're looking for something prescriptive, or specifically theologically pointed, you may do best to read somet
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Drew
Very important book. Beautifully written, of course, Buechner can only write beautifully. Buechner's father committed suicide when he was 10 years old. The book is wise, full of grace and hope and very tender. It relates how harmful secrets can be and it recounts what God can do when secrets are exposed to the light of day.
Rebekah Choat
Telling Secrets is Buechner’s third volume of autobiography/memoir. The two earlier books, The Sacred Journey and Now and Then, dealt with what he calls the headlines of his life – his birth, his father’s death, the family’s moves to various different cities, school, marriage, and the like. This book turns to “the back pages of the paper where I have always thought the real news is anyway,” the interior life.

The author does an admirable job of sharing and exploring the secrets of his own life wh
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Jim H.
This book sat on my books-to-read shelf for a long time, possibly a decade. I don’t recall why or when I bought it and can’t explain why I never read it until now. Maybe it was waiting until I needed it. I think that happens a lot.

This is my first read of Buechner’s thirty books. It’s difficult to describe. He is an ordained minister who writes fiction and non-fiction. This memoir is in three parts. The titles seem allegorical, but Buechner delves into very real, personal and tragic events in h
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Max
Beautifully written, with long, rolling sentences evocative of the style of William Faulkner. Buechner extolls the power of story, particularly our "secret stories," to convey the human condition, and foster empathy and love. The storyteller must first and foremost delve into his own secrets if he is to better understand himself first, and then others. "Love thy neighbor as thyself." Thus, love thyself well. This is all good stuff.

However, the conclusion of Buechner's memoir left me very confuse
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Joel
Buechner's pen inks poetry, his words elegant and thoughtful. I enjoy reading him for his prose alone.

But this third memoir on his life runs too relativistically. He responds to a Divinity student with a humanistic athiest worldview, "Maybe she was right," Another student, a Unitarian Universalist, said he believed in "faith." When questioned "faith in what?", he responded "faith in faith." Buechner responded "he was doing the best he could." His mystical side comes out as he reflects on are any
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Amber
My copy of this book has notes and highlights and underlining on just about every page. Buechner's honesty and storytelling has made my life richer. I highly recommend this for anyone struggling to make sense of complicated family histories.
Marion
The last in the series of masterfully written 3 memoirs in which the author's personal journey of faith pierces the darkness of family secrets and denial, thus illustrating his central theme that redemption is available to all.
Shannon
Oh, Frederick, I think you might be my soul mate. Your writing stirs me deeply and puts words to experiences I have not been able to verbalize. I will be reading more of you!
Webster Bull
A longer version of this review appeared in my blog “Witness.” http://witness2christ.blogspot.com/20...

* * *

For long stretches of this memoir, Buechner, a Presbyterian minister, writes like he can’t stop sermonizing. His prose is beautiful—too beautiful to make you think he ever really hurt over the secrets he claims he held onto for too long.

But the book is constructed cleverly like a descending spiral. Early on, he gives up one of his two big secrets (his father’s suicide) and then quickly the
...more
Marika Chronister
Beuchner has put to words some of the deep "secret" experiences and emotions of my own heart and has done so with eloquence and grace. Although our theological perspectives may not be a perfect match, I'd like to think we could converse with the same open dialogue he enjoyed at Wheaton:

"The result was that to find myself at Wheaton among people who, although they spoke about it in different words from mine and expressed it in their lives differently, not only believed in Christ and his Kingdom m
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Juli
Buechner's books are often so layered that it takes me several times through to catch the brilliance of it all. But brilliance it is. In a memoir, Buechner brings the reader along his journey of processing through some of the hard things in his life. He reflects on the importance of telling our stories - both for our own sakes as much as for others. He writes about the power of remembering and the idea that through remembering we can be blessed and healed (not just cursed by it). Buechner models ...more
Jodi
Nov 03, 2011 Jodi rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jodi by: Kelly Chirzpatrik
The thing I like about being in a book club is that I must read books I would normally never pick up otherwise. This book is one of those books. The blurb wouldn't have grabbed my attention, I do not know the author, and the cover isn't overly appealing. However, a member of my book club wanted to read it so............I read it. Certainly, not a life-changing book or one I'll remember for ever, but it was a decent and quick read.

The author shares things that he has struggled with in his life -
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Shelley
I enjoyed reading this. I love Buechner's writing, although I don't always jive with his theology. There's still a lot of good stuff in here, and his eloquence will move even Puppy Francis to tears - that is, if Francis could just "krill" out long enough to be moved.

Buechner encourages us to examine the stories of our lives in search of God's presence there. Well, here is a story from my life that will always be connected to my reading of this book.

Just tonight, I was traveling on a subway train
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Shannon
Last week I went to my favorite used book store for a girls' night out with a friend. While there, I found this book. I've been wanting to read something by Buechner for a while now and the description on the back sounded appealing and familiar. Like Buechner, I am the child of an alcoholic. Unlike him, I'm still working up the courage to see and know clearly what my own secrets are.

I found this book to be a quiet, meditative one. Buechner's style of writing is calming yet insightful. I enjoyed
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David
Telling Secrets is a personal, self-revealing memoir that succeeds and enlightens. The author reveals as necessary without the chronic whining of more contemporary attempts. Rather, like an onion, he peels back those memories that have forged the family. And as a result, the writer and his work. On occasion Buechner does touch on writing, but only here and there and only as it relates to his upbringing and family history.

He shares valuable insight into how we humans stuff our pain away. Buechne
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Rachel
I was a half-fan, a grudging fan, of Buechner before this. I had never actually read any whole book by him, so I couldn't tell you exactly why. This has changed my mind! I found it so refreshing how he talks about his life, his dark times, his faith. I want to read more! I want to read his novels especially, from what he described of them here. It's a good book about what happens when we hide things, especially in families, and when we don't.
Brian Whited
Buechner opens the beginning of his book with this statement, “It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are—even if we tell it only to ourselves—because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing (3).” He warns that ministers are especially at risk. Pastors “tend ...more
Gigi
Few authors are as bold, or candid or vulnerable as Buechner. I find in him an authentic wrestler and Christ-follower. He makes me want to be more real and less pretend. He finds words for the indescribable.

His words on story encapsulate why reading this book is important.

My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their pa
...more
Eric North
Patient, thoughtful, and always reflective, Beuchner talks plainly about his life and several landmark events that shaped him. Remember, he says often. Remember where you've come from and see Christ in it.

A little scattered and reading like a compilation of journal entries, his thoughts are deep and honest. Modest and quietly holy, like the chapel in the white tower that he describes this short book will be revisited.
Ben Connelly
To be fair, this isn't the type of book I typically read - so it may be better than I'm giving it credit for. I felt like we were wandering through the author's thoughts, seeing some connection at points but not sure where we were going. But I appreciate the introspection & honesty - the deeply personal story had some poignant lessons.
Katelyn Beaty
I would probably enjoy reading Frederick Buechner's grocery list, and yet the third installment of his spiritual memoirs, Telling Secrets, was a little underwhelming. It seemed Buechner relied too heavily on squishy spiritual maxims to pack an emotional punch, rather than just telling the readers his life story, in that magical-grandfather way he does. I did, however, enjoy Buechner's section on teaching at Harvard, and especially on his time at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church--primarily because I ...more
Susan
Frederick Buechner's book, Telling Secrets, A Memoir, is his journey of making sense of the suffering in his own life. He sees suffering and healing in very human ways. In that way, I found his book really refreshing. He brings an honesty to his faith, that a lot of the Evangelical world would have a difficult time digesting. He talks about God speaking through the hieroglyphics of the things that happen to us. His premise is that in keeping our secrets and pains hidden, we do a disservice to ou ...more
Amber
Deep intellectual journey about the secrets we carry through life
Becky Spies
Honest, raw, and refreshing. His explanation of the presence of God left me wanting to hear more!
Carly
I'm torn about this one. On one hand, some of Buechner's insights were wonderfully soft, powerful & illuminating. On the other hand, even though I enjoy spiritual memoirs, I couldn't entirely relate to the language Buechner uses to talk about his spirituality and religion. Relating to the language of an individual memoirist's spirituality is a really important component, for me, in feeling connected to a text such as this. Anyway, I think I have to read more of Buechner before I can form an ...more
Charis
1 of 3 books on Frederick Buechner's autobiography, Telling Secrets dives into a part of his life that dealt with shame and hurt. For Mr. Buechner, it was a huge revelation and healing opportunity in his life; unfortunately, our world is so broken his story is not as shocking today as it may have been 20 years ago.

However, those who have had shame in their family, a suicide, divorce, abuse, etc., may find this book encouraging and uplifting. It's a simple read and a great reminder of God's grac
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Julia
Lovely, moving memoir by a Christian academic/writer/minister. I'm not sure this was the most sensible choice for a 1st foray into Buechner's work (it's his 3rd autobiographical book) but it certainly made me want to read more and check out his novels; I love his voice and perspective and tone. He tells the stories of his alcoholic father's suicide and his daughter's anorexia, of teaching at both Harvard and Wheaton in the 80s (so interesting!), all within the context of secrecy vs. telling the ...more
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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 Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

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“Stop trying to protect, to rescue, to judge, to manage the lives around you . . . remember that the lives of others are not your business. They are their business. They are God’s business . . . even your own life is not your business. It also is God’s business. Leave it to God. It is an astonishing thought. It can become a life-transforming thought . . . unclench the fists of your spirit and take it easy . . . What deadens us most to God’s presence within us, I think, is the inner dialogue that we are continuously engaged in with ourselves, the endless chatter of human thought. I suspect that there is nothing more crucial to true spiritual comfort . . . than being able from time to time to stop that chatter . . . ” 143 likes
“What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing. It is important to tell our secrets too because it makes it easier . . . for other people to tell us a secret or two of their own . . . ” 102 likes
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