Buechner’s narrative techniques place most of the weight of his novels on plot and theme; characterization is designed to exemplify those basic themes of grace and faith that Buechner sees as the fundamental principles by which mankind can work its way through the world. In The Book of Bebb, Buechner has thus given the reader a gallery of eccentric characters, all of whom must confront the basic issues of faith and despair, physical life and spiritual death. Their various reactions to this challenge confirm Buechner’s belief that life is indeed a matter of choices among the mundane affairs of life and not in hearing voices or seeing miracles. In most cases, Buechner’s characters are shrewdly drawn caricatures who appear onstage in fleeting moments, dramatizing those choices. Buechner creates Leo Bebb as the supreme example of grace operating through the least likely channel; Bebb is profane, earthy, sometimes blasphemous in the way he “preaches the gospel.” Nevertheless, he is but one more reminder that all men have feet of clay, that God loves His creatures in spite of their shortcomings, and that the evidence of God’s grace is all around for all to see.
Bebb is the fulcrum on which the tetralogy balances—even after his death, one is not quite done with Bebb, since he is reincarnated as Jinny Bob in the fourth and final volume in the tetralogy, Treasure Hunt. In many ways, however, the tetralogy is really the “Book of...
(The entire section is 490 words.)