Books That Haunt: Godric

Each Tuesday, until I decide otherwise, TruePravda will feature a different book in the Books That Haunt series.

Five friends I had, and two of them were snakes. So begins Frederick Buechner’s (pronounced “Beekner”) Pulitzer Prize runner-up novel Godric. The novel is loosely based on Godric of Finchale, a 12th century holy man known for, among other things, the self-mortification of his flesh which he carried our by bathing in the cold waters of the river Wear.

The story is told the reader by Godric the old man, as he recounts his life to his biographer. As much as Godric tries to portray his true nature (which is not so holy) to the biographer, the biographer sees only a holy man. Godric is a saint whether he likes it or not—and it’s certainly not his own deeds that make him holy.

The eloquent prose in this novel is beyond comparison. Buechner is tremendously gifted with the pen. A Presbyterian minister, Buechner has a way of framing the divine ways that might surprise you. While I’m not in agreement with many of Buechner’s theological beliefs (he all but endorses the heterodox Marcus Borg in his latest memoir), he has a way of bringing out Christ in literature that makes Tim LaHaye, Jerry Jenkins look like mere pulp writers. Oh wait, they are mere pulp writers. Anyway, you get the picture.

Godric is not for the faint of heart. Every time you begin to like Godric, he gives you another reason to hate him. This is the beauty of the story because it shows us in the example of a medieval saint how while were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:6-8). While we hated God, he loved us—and if that thought doesn’t “haunt” you, what else is left?