Lion Country, 1971

(Great Characters in Literature)

Antonio Parr

Antonio Parr, the narrator, in his middle thirties. Antonio and his friend Ellie Pierce gather information to expose Leo Bebb as a fraudulent promoter of religion. Antonio quickly becomes involved with the Bebb family and marries Sharon Bebb.

Leo Bebb

Leo Bebb, a heavyset, bald Southerner in his late fifties. He operates a diploma mill, called Gospel Faith College, and an ordination mill, called The Church of Holy Love, Inc., in Armadillo, Florida, and later on Red Path Ranch near Houston, Texas. Leo Bebb has all the traits of a charlatan who takes money in exchange for academic and ministerial credentials. His life is littered with scandals such as exposing himself to children, for which he served time, and exposing himself again at Herman Redpath’s ordination. This latter event helped restore Herman’s potency.

Sharon Bebb

Sharon Bebb, the adopted daughter of Leo and Lucille Bebb. Sharon is a foulmouthed and promiscuous woman who marries Antonio Parr.

Lucille Bebb

Lucille Bebb, the first wife of Leo Bebb. She accidentally killed her first child and attempted suicide out of grief. She spends most of her time trying to drown her sorrows with Tropicana drinks, made of orange juice and gin.

Laverne Brown

Laverne Brown, called Brownie, a former car salesman whom Leo Bebb raised from the dead and promoted to being the dean of Gospel Faith College. As Leo’s loyal assistant, Brownie functions like a slavishly dutiful wife, maid, and colleague. Brownie’s B.D., S.T.M., Th.D., and D.D. degrees are all from his own correspondence college.

Miriam Blaine

Miriam Blaine, the twin sister of Antonio Parr, the former wife of Charlie Blaine, and the mother of Chris and Tony Blaine. She suffers from myeloma, a cancer of the bone that takes her life.

Charlie Blaine

Charlie Blaine, the hypochondriac former husband of Miriam Blaine who cannot bear to see her before her death and eventually leaves her sons with Antonio and Sharon.

Tony Blaine

Tony Blaine, the youngest son of Charlie and Miriam Blaine. Tony, along with Chris, comes to live with Antonio and Sharon.

Chris Blaine

Chris Blaine, the studious elder son of Charlie and Miriam Blaine. He later helps take care of his cousin, Billy, while Sharon and Antonio busy themselves with their careers.

Open Heart, 1972

(Great Characters in Literature)

Antonio Parr

Antonio Parr, who learns through the deaths of Herman Redpath and Lucille Bebb that Leo Bebb is imperfect but nevertheless changes some people’s lives, including Antonio’s. Antonio also struggles with the infidelity of his wife.

Sharon Bebb

Sharon Bebb, who gives birth to Billy, her first child. She takes up yoga and has her first affair, with Antonio’s nephew, Tony Blaine.

Leo Bebb

Leo Bebb, who leaves the work of Gospel Faith College and The Church of Holy Love to Brownie following Herman Redpath’s death. Leo then starts Open Heart near Stamford, Connecticut. This church proves to be a dismal failure.

Lucille Bebb

Lucille Bebb, who slashes her wrists again out of frustration over all the things she knows about Leo but must keep secret. Her suicide occurs in Texas, away from all family. Only Brownie is with her in the end.

Clarence Golden

Clarence Golden, a three-hundred-pound former convict who served five years in prison as the cell mate of Leo Bebb. Clarence keeps showing up in Leo’s life and appears at Open Heart. He is sometimes described as a man from a flying saucer or as an angel.

Gertrude Conover

Gertrude Conover, the wealthy second wife of Leo Bebb. She is a Theosophist in her late seventies. She claims she has known Bebb in many previous incarnations.

Love Feast, 1974

(Great Characters in Literature)

Antonio Parr

Antonio Parr, who travels to Europe with Sharon Parr, Leo Bebb, and Gertrude Conover in an effort to escape the failings in Antonio’s marriage and at Open Heart. Antonio later separates from Sharon and has a brief affair with Laura Fleischman, who ironically later marries Tony Blaine.

Sharon Parr

Sharon Parr, who with Anita Steen opens a health food store called the Sharanita Shop. Anita’s lesbian tendencies worry Antonio, and his fight with Sharon about Anita leads to a time of separation. During this time, Sharon has another affair with Tony Blaine, who is the probable father of her second child, Lucille.

Leo Bebb

Leo Bebb, who returns from Europe to find that Open Heart has burned down. He starts a new work, an event involving eating, drinking, and preaching called Love Feast, in Princeton, New Jersey. He makes one prominent convert, Nancy Oglethorpe, who assists Leo and Gertrude Conover. Leo gets in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion and enlists the help of Clarence Golden. The plane in which they try to escape burns and crashes, but no trace is found of their bodies.

Treasure Hunt, 1977

(Great Characters in Literature)

Antonio Parr

Antonio Parr, who joins Sharon Parr and Gertrude Conover in a search for Leo Bebb’s childhood home in Poinsett, South Carolina. They discover who Sharon’s real parents are and inherit Leo’s home. Because Gertrude claims to have found Leo’s reincarnation in a blind baby named Jimmy Bob Luby, the Parrs give Leo’s home to the poor Luby family. Antonio grows to appreciate Leo as a kind of saint for the way he changes lives for the good.

Babe Bebb

Babe Bebb, the twin brother of Leo Bebb who rejects his Baptist heritage and operates a place called Uforium that advocates escaping Earth aboard a flying saucer. Like Leo, Babe has perverse tendencies. At night, he roams around Poinsett, South Carolina, doing all kinds of mischief while wearing his wife’s wig and dress so that he can spoil her reputation and thereby get even with her for her affair with Leo Bebb.


Bertha (Bert) Bebb, the wife of Babe and the actual mother of Sharon Bebb by her brother-in-law, Leo Bebb. She lost her hair as a result of an experiment conducted by her husband.

Laverne Brown

Laverne Brown, who loses his faith in what Bebb taught him and instead adopts the teachings of Babe Bebb about life-rays, aliens, and UFOs. He dies in a scuffle with Babe Bebb.

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Buechner has employed a number of techniques in constructing The Book of Bebb. As a minister, Buechner has utilized many devices in...

(The entire section is 383 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Although many of Buechner's literary and theological works have been issued during the 1960s and 1970s, periods of great social unrest and...

(The entire section is 271 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Among the sources of inspiration for Buechner's novels are the Oz books of L. Frank Baum, C. S. Lewis's Surprised By Joy (1955) and...

(The entire section is 160 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Anderson, Chris. “The Very Style of Faith: Frederick Buechner as Homilist and Essayist.” Christianity and Literature 38 (Winter, 1989): 7-21. Focuses on Buechner’s nonfiction, but with many insights that make the full purpose and interest of his fiction more accessible.

Brown, W. Dale. “A Faith to Live and Die With.” Sojourners 27 (May/June, 1998): 52-55. Brown surveys some of Buechner’s works, showing how they reflect the position of faith in modern life. He also shows how Buechner has reaffirmed the value of Christianity by constantly questioning its relevance.

Davies, Marie-Helene. Laughter in a Genevan Gown: The Works of Frederick Buechner, 1970-1980. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1983. The most comprehensive introduction to the life and work of Frederick Buechner, locating both author and works in the context of their religious background. A useful orientation for a reading of The Book of Bebb.

Nelson, Rudolph L. “ The Doors of Perception’: Mystical Experience in Buechner’s Fiction.” Southwest Review 68 (Summer, 1983): 266-273. Stresses the visionary element in Buechner’s work and how it assists in the articulation of his fiction’s overall point of view. A sense of the position of The Book of Bebb in the development of Buechner’s imaginative output may be inferred.

Yancey, Philip. “Crazy, Holy Grace.” Christianity Today 41 (June 16, 1997): 33. Yancey recounts Buechner’s conversion at the age of twenty-seven, when a sermon by George Buttrick changed his life. Buechner’s view of God as a humorous, friendly presence whose grace appears in unexpected ways is reflected throughout his writing.