Book Thoughts: The Sacred Journey

The Sacred Journey: A Memoir of Early Days

By Frederick Buechner

HarperSanFrancisco, 1982

Paperback (a thin volume), with pages of a nice weight. Bends easily in hand.

On the first page… “How do you tell the story of your life—of how you were born, and the world you were born into, and the world that was born in you?” This is how Buechner begins this memoir, and it’s this sensitivity to the depth and richness of childhood that prompted me to read slowly and savor this book.

Most Surprising Moment: When Buechner started writing about a few places that have been very important in my own life, including the Holy Cross Monastery in New York. It was strange to see these places through another person’s eyes—especially since Buechner’s writing has been so formative for me.

If I could have dinner with one character, it would be… Naya, Buechner’s mother’s mother. In some ways, I feel as if I’ve met her already through some of the people in my own life. There’s something glittering about her, like the wing of a dragonfly. I love how Buechner describes what it was like when the curtain was drawn back on Naya, in the sense that he saw her not only as one of the celestial bodies in the solar system of his world, but also as her own person, who loved him, but could also hurt him, even if only unintentionally.

A Note for the Author: 

Dear Mr. Buechner,

You write that when you signed the contract for your first novel, you see someone from your past in the lobby of the publisher’s office. He’s a messenger boy, and you’re almost-famous… but you feel sadness, almost to the point of shame. And then you write that something happened to you, “some small flickering out of the truth that, in the long run, there can be no real joy for anybody until there is joy finally for us all.” This is something that continually pains me. I would love to know how this truth shaped other moments in your life, particularly when you’re older (I understand that I may have to just read your other memoirs to find out).

I’m not sure I’ll ever know how deeply you’ve impacted how I understand the Christian faith, and my quick and fleeting life. I do know that reading your books helps me to feel less tangled, and more free to follow God. Thank you for that.

Grace and peace,


Treatment Recommendation: Read this book for spiritual nourishment. Particularly effective in the morning with a cup of tea, still in your pajamas, before you start the day. Helpful for slowing down and experiencing not just this memoir, but also your own life in a quietly meditative way. Rings with truth.

The idea of providing a treatment recommendation comes from The School of Life’s bibliotherapy service. Read an NPR piece about it here.




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