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Telling Secrets

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,391 ratings  ·  133 reviews
With eloquence, candor and simplicity, Frederick Buechner shares his darkest secrets--his father's alcohol abuse and suicide. He traces the influence of these events on his life as a son, father, husband, and minister, and explores the healing, hope and love to be found in revealing what has long been hidden.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 5th 2000 by HarperOne (first published 1991)
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Average rating 4.31  · 
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 ·  1,391 ratings  ·  133 reviews

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Sep 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An absolute must-read. Moving, inspirational, raw and real. This book will take everything you think you know about your self-perception and cause you to reconsider how you express that.
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I'll return to this one, both mindfully and with re-reads, because already within two weeks after having completed it this book has been very influential in my behavior, decisions, and general understanding of myself. Telling Secrets is beautifully honest and true. A wonderful read.
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Jim Ainsworth
Nov 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Rebekah Choat
Oct 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
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
Sofie Strömvall
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is what candor looks like. There is so much truth in this. I have not read anything like this before. It is not so much what he says as how he says it. It is to real to be a novel but also to personal to be a Christian non-fiction. A memoir is obviously something else entirely. I loved the melodic language. I loved Fredericks way of expressing complicated aspects of life by elaborate thoughts through the simplest of words. There were a few times where I struggled following his line of thoug ...more
Mar 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ali M.
Mar 16, 2011 rated it liked it
"God himself showed how crucial human life is by actually living one and hallowed human death by actually dying one, and lives and dies still with us and for us and in spite of us."

The best one-sentence summary of Christianity I can think of.
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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!
Helena Sorensen
I love Buechner for his honesty and his gentleness, and this book has deeply impacted me. I have no doubt I'll return to it.
Kevin Moore
Jun 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was so incredible. Reminds me a lot of Henri Nouwen’s and C.S. Lewis’s writing. One of my favorite sections is when he talks about how the church should be more like AA groups:

“I do not believe that such groups as these which I found my way to not long after returning from Wheaton, or Alcoholics Anonymous, which is the group they all grew out of, are perfect any more than anything human is perfect, but I believe that the church has an enormous amount to learn from them. I also believe
Jun 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More good stuff here. This time Buechner goes a little deeper into two 'secrets' from his story - his experiences of his father's suicide and his daughter's journey with anorexia. This develops into an examination of his secret internal spaces - both constrictive and liberating (explored metaphorically through two rooms found in the Tower of London - the Little Ease (a cell in which you can neither stand up nor lie down) and the peaceful Chapel of St John on the floor above it) - and a movement ...more
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this one and connected to Buechner’s thinking. At it's heart, the book is about faith, self-awareness, strained-but-loving relationships, and healing. Buechner is at times deeply profound, and at others full of feeling, sometimes to the point of melodrama. I was gradually less excited by allusions to our own stories - histories - and connectivity. I was most impressed by his reflections on writing and near-Buddhist interest in perspective and limits to knowledge and "truth." Great, int ...more
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It seems silly that I have known of / loved Frederick Buechner's words for over a year, but finished reading my first book authored by him today. Though there are sentences in this book that I would feel uncomfortable standing behind, I resonate with many of Buechner's words in deep, truthful ways. I'm in awe of his perspective and posture towards life and love.
Jessica  Claxton
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book took me months to read. It was one of the shortest books I read all year, but mercy it requires pause to ponder. Buechner thinks through the mysteries of God in such a beautiful way. It is thoughtful and messy and simple and profound. It requires a pen or highlighter.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An encouraging read that hit the mark for this season in my life and the life of my community. Robust insight into the nature of our humanity--hopeful, with devastatingly honest and contemplative remembrance of some of Buechner's experiences. I would highly recommend.

"I have called this book Telling Secrets because 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 tel
Feb 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
I became acquainted with Frederick Buechner’s writing toward the end of 2014 when I read “The Alphabet of Grace”. I subsequently picked up “Listening to Your Life: Daily Meditations with Frederick Buechner” and “Peculiar Treasures”. From both these books I now read morsels daily like treats to sweeten the day. And yet I feel a strange hungering after other books he has written.

“Telling Secrets” is Buechner’s third autobiography written in 1991. It is about his interior life and what he called
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Marika Chronister
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs-journals
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
Feb 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
While I don't think I fully agree 100% with the author's theology, I am left undone by the beauty of his words. We need to share our deepest secrets - for the strength of others, but even more so for our own healing. This book has challenged me to let go of the bondage of my story and live in the freedom that all really will be ok. We can rejoice even in the hard parts of our story, because it's those very parts where we have more often than not been met with the undeniable love of God. I'll be ...more
Nov 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It was difficult for me to catch the cadence of this author's writing in the beginning. However, as I read on I was touched by the naked honesty of Buechner's prose, and I feel honored to be allowed to glimpse the inner chambers of his existence. It takes a lot of bravery to write like he does.
Kristy Aiken
Mar 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Pages of this book were a 5 and some just did not interest me at all so I had to go with a 3. Overall, it is very short and worth reading for the truth you get.
Bryce Doty
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
I previously read this as a nineteen year-old college student. I loved it back then. Re-reading it now I’ve come to realize how many phrases and rhythms of life I’ve copped from this slim volume. I feel quite certain that I have an old copy hiding in one of many many boxes full of books in a barn in Texas from another life. A few years ago I rummaged around in them looking for this short memoir. I found a couple others of his, but not this one. Whatever spark that caused me to remember him faded ...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

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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 . . . ” 227 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 . . . ” 140 likes
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