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A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  337 ratings  ·  60 reviews
When pain is real, why is God silent?

Frederick Buechner has grappled with the nature of pain, grief, and grace ever since his father committed suicide when Buechner was a young boy. He continued that search as a father when his daughter struggled with anorexia. In this essential collection of essays, including one never before published, Frederick Buechner finds that the G
Paperback, 144 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Zondervan
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Nov 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What do you DO when you’re no longer able to shore up your losses against the rising tide of brute Despair?

How do you manage to slog through a desert of a ruined life when catalaclysm upon climacteric upon catastrophe has so wreaked havoc with your shaky nerves, that you are unable to endure another anguished second of pain?

Why is the only reward for your assiduous efforts always the leering and grimacingly yawning grin of the Empty Abyss?

These are unanswerable questions to so many of us, and th
Oct 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Frederick Buechner is one of my favorite authors. He is a writer of enigmatic fiction with strange and conflicted characters (e.g. the holy and profane Godric, an unsaintly, Saint Brendan, and the unlikable religious charlatan Lou Bebb), as well as sermons and theological musings, and poignant memoirs which wrestle with darkness, grace and calling.

A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory is vintage Buechner. Quite literally, in fact. Most of this book is culled from the Buechner
Heather King
Oct 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’ve become a curious thing, a fan of Frederick Buechner without having read many of his books. I’ve seen his quotes posted online or read other authors as they referred to him. It’s only been in the past year that I’ve jumped into reading his books myself and enjoying this invitation he offers to quiet contemplation and thoughtful consideration of life and faith and believing God even when we’re in pain. Zondervan’s newest releases of Buechner’s spiritual memoirs, The Remarkable Ordinary and Cr ...more
Scott Wozniak
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is beautifully written--masterfully written, even--and slides from witty to wise, from personal to spiritual with such skill that you hardly notice it. I loved it. Why four and not five stars? It's very short, it doesn't really offer any answers or steps to take, and it gets confused on its theological position at times. But if you're just looking for a beautiful, honest musing on pain and faith, just something to stir up your soul (and not something to answer questions or increase clarity) ...more
Rebekah Judd
Nov 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was my first Buechner book, but it won’t be the last. Buechner has a way of speaking about Christianity without using trite Christian phrases.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
While reading this, I texted a friend that Buechner was holding my hand through a time of emotional pain. That is what I sense when reading his works. He has obviously walked through his own struggles and pain and because of that, he writes to reveal God's crazy, holy grace that comes to us through suffering and trials. He explores what eternity might be. He discusses loss and grief and searching for meaning and acceptance. I love reading his writing over and over again with only one exception.. ...more
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Buechner's meditative lyricism regarding his own life's harrowing pain subtly spoke to the potentially holy, potentially transformative power of pain and memory. A quick, poetic read.

Some noteworthy lines:
- "Either life is holy with meaning or life doesn't mean a damn thing. You pay your money and you take your choice. Only never take your choice too easily, of course. Never assume because you have taken it one way today, you may not take it another way tomorrow" (134).
- "The trouble with steeli
May 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I think I must have cried at least eight different times while reading this. Buechner speaks to the soul. He understands the shape of darkness, and is not hasty to banish it. Rather, like an old friend, he sits with his reader in the midst of it, opens his heart, and shows his own wounds. Ultimately, he reminds the reader that the light will break through. But until then, he's comfortable sitting with you while you wait.

The only hang up would be that there are repetitive stories in this book. W
Justin Wiggins
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading this by Frederick Buechner was a profound literary experience. It has become my favorite book.
Steven King
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Author: Frederick Buechner
Title: A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory
Publisher: Zondervan
Year of Publication: 2017

Writing of Frederick Buechner, Philip Yancey leads readers to believe that his writings inform the very nature of how to live: “Frederick Buechner doesn’t just show us how to write; he shows us how to live.”

At this point in my reading career, I have read three works by Buechner: Godric, The Remarkable Ordinary: How to Stop, Look, and Listen to Life, and now A Cra
Nov 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book, it seems to me, must be a cathartic journey for Buechner, reminiscing about so many events in his past. He tells the story of his father's suicide (again) as well as that of meeting the priest wearing black gaiters (again) and that of his brother crying in Bermuda (again and again) and his mother's comments about the gardener passing by (again). He spends pages describing books in his Magic Kingdom, as he calls his office/library.

Included, from time to time, is an insight about remem
Dec 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
In 'A Crazy, Holy Grace' sometimes I found his thoughts intriguing or an original way of thinking of something and other times he just seemed confused about God, Jesus and the afterlife. He quotes Scripture so he's read at least part of the Bible but I don't know if he doesn't believe what it says about Heaven and Hell, doesn't want to believe it or views it as a metaphor. Sometimes he seems hopeful and reminds us that God is there and we're not alone and other times he doubts and questions. He ...more
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Frederick Buechner's A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory explores one of the fundamental questions at the heart of the Christian faith: When our human pain is so real, where is God?

A Crazy, Holy Grace is a release of a lecture given some time ago. Its message has never appeared in print before. But it's as timely as this morning's news. The world is rife with human suffering -- written in the news scroll across my television screen, but as real and burning as the person's l
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Pain and Hope Shape Our Lives

Our lives are filled with loss, pain, memory and hope. Beuchner writes poignantly about each of these emotions in his life.

Perhaps the hardest part to read is the first chapters on pain. Beuchner’s father committed suicide when Frederick was a young boy. For many years he couldn’t grieve, pushing the memory down. Because the memory was pushed down so hard it haunted him until finally he was able to talk about it. Now he writes beautifully about it. If you’ve lost so
John Stuart
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Memories are made for this…

I had never read any of Beuchner’s books before this one, but a number of my pastor colleagues have been referring to his works for years. This book intrigued me because of its title – A Crazy, Holy Grace. Throughout my pastoral ministry, I have seen this in action, especially among folks who have had tragic childhoods or heart-rending grief. Beuchner’s book is an ideal resource for people who are struggling with the pain of a great loss, as well as their faith in God
Marlene Hekkert
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
In A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory, Buechner looks at the age-old question: when pain is real, why is God silent? Buechner has truly been a "steward" of his pain, a remarkable idea he brings forth in this book. Since the loss of his father at a young age, Buechner has learned hands-on what it means to steward painful things that happen during the course of our lives, rather than trying to forget painful events or feeling trapped by them. He writes that God does not sow ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Buechner remains one of my favorites. Some like his brooding writing, some don't. Starting off lent with this book was a nice reminder of the pain we all go through in life. Buechner gently then gives the reminder that it us who chooses if that defines or shapes our life journey. The question is posed, “When pain is real, why is God silent?” To answer that question, ‘Crazy Holy Grace’ is separated into 3 parts. Each goes through reflections and  memories of lost relationships, friendships,death, ...more
Jeff Crosby
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you have read Frederick Buechner's earlier works including "Sacred Journey" and "The Eyes of the Heart," you've already encountered the majority of the material that was culled into "A Crazy, Holy Grace." But in addition to one wholly new chapter of content (from all I can tell, and I've read all of his work), it's very interesting and impactful to read this collection of his writings on pain and memory assembled in this way. The overall effect is a greater sense of understanding of the arc o ...more
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Much of this book is material already published elsewhere. As I am a Buechner fan already, I didn't mind the re-read and there aren't too many books I do enjoy reading again. The material in chapter one, "The Gates of Pain" was a very interesting and helpful chapter. He shares the stories of his father's suicide and how his family dealt with the pain, as well as other non-healthy ways we can deal with pain. The most memorable quote for me is: "Another way of dealing with your pain is to be a goo ...more
Jackie St Hilaire
May 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We share to encourage others to reflect on their own life.

By telling his life's journey, Frederick Buechner gives us a deeper understanding on life and facing our humanity.

In story form from his own lived experiences and those closest to him, he gives the reader a heartfelt, compassionate assessment of his past life and how it affects the here and now. In hope and faith into the unknown of every day. In the struggles of being and living in what life has been thrust upon him.

Let us become compan
Eric Black
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
As with so much of Buechner’s work, Crazy Holy Grace sits with me and makes me wonder what he is hoping to accomplish, or is indeed accomplishing, in the writing and the reading. I was most unsure in Part I, stunned into sorrowfully numb silence in Part II, and left wondering in Part III. Perhaps that’s the crazy of Crazy Holy Grace. I’m still looking for the holy and the grace. Well, with Buechner, it’s not looking as much as waiting, which is to say it is there and will be seen in due time.
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
A beautifully written book. This was my first encounter with Buechner (thank you Russell Moore for the recommendation in the October 2017 CT) and I think it is very unlikely to be my last. More non-fiction than not, but with a smattering of holy imaginings and always poetic. This is the sort of book one could read quickly but is best consumed slowly. The meditations on loss and pain are a full meal.
Steve Penner
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was ok
Not my favorite of his writings. Again, this is a compilation of previously written material with a new essay or speech added in. Again, Buechner focuses on his painful memories and how they can help or hinder growth into a mature human being. Unfortunately, I don't think there is a lot memorable about it. ...more
Tim Hoiland
Oct 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: faith, 2017
I’ve been hooked on Buechner’s writing for over a decade. It’s the kind of stuff I revisit time and again. So five stars for all of that. But with the exception of the first chapter, all of this has been previously published in other books. So I’ve gotta dock a couple of stars for Zondervan’s sneakiness. It’s nothing personal, Fred.
Josh Gaudreau
Dec 02, 2017 rated it did not like it
Couldn't finish it, read 3 of the "essays."

The book cover and back made it sound like a a straightforward teaching book, but in reality it's a collection of memoirs. Normally I enjoy that type of writing too, but his writing style just put me off (though I did enjoy his novel Godric).

As such, it wasn't helpful for my purposes nor my taste.
Sep 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Throughout this book I found several quotable passages, but had to wade through a lot of rambling to find them. For processing grief, this could be a good choice and it isn’t a passive read. Overall, I know that I believe many things differently than the author, but did find value in thinking and asking myself why I believe what I do and in some points was able to see things in a new way.
Gwendolyn Caithness Cameron
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
EXQUISITE; reminds me of the feelings that surfaced when reading Annie Dillards' "Holy the Firm". Incredibly intimate, exploring the spirituality of trauma, the questions and depths of soulful exploration traversed. My favorite book of 2018; as much as I love Arielle Schwartz' book on Complex PTSD, this gives an emotional intensity, a path to explore the yearnings, the cries of the heart. ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
I docked a star 'cause, though I love Buechner, his theological convictions get a bit too mushy and malleable for me at times. But more often he delights me and / or makes me cry. He has a way of telling or retelling stories that is just plain magical and reveals God almost more in the manner of telling than the content. ...more
Melissa Hoeldtke
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Pastor Buechner has an amazing handle on the human condition and the interplay between our desire for God and our complete failings as well. This book gives such hope. It is so rich with wisdom and insight, I’m ready to read it again.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Very inconsistent. Some great moments as well as dreadful passages. I think this is a compilation of several pieces previously published. At least that's what it feels like, with some repetition and disjointed sections. ...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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