Lion Country is a richly entertaining book, sometimes very funny, sometimes very moving, and always deeply suggestive of meaning somewhere beyond itself. Its first-person narrator, Antonio Parr, is a thirty-four-year-old ex-teacher, ex-sculptor in scrap iron, ex-would-be-novelist who on impulse answers the ad of a religious diploma mill. He receives his ordination through the mail, allowing him tax and other advantages, and eventually meets the ebullient and wonderfully ambiguous head of the organization, Leo Bebb. Antonio's twin, Miriam, is dying of a bone disease in Manhattan, but he is so fascinated as well as repelled by Bebb that he seeks him out in Armadillo, Florida - the site of The Church of Holy Love, Inc. - where most of the novel's action takes place. It is here that he meets, among others, Brownie, Bebb's peculiarly seraphic assistant; Hermon Redpath, a septuagenarian satyr whom Bebb hopes to make his patron; and Bebb's twenty-one-year-old Daughter, Sharon, with whom Antonio Parr falls in love. In addition to conferring degrees in almost anything on almost anybody who can meet the fee, Bebb turns out to have been tried earlier on charges of sexual exhibitionism; and as Parr's knowledge of him deepens, together with his knowledge of himself, their destinies grow curiously linked. Although Mr. Buechner writes with the same brilliance of language and imagery as in his earlier novels and is concerned as always with the depth and complexity of human life, Lion Country stands apart from his earlier work. There is a lightness of touch here, a sensuousness, a feeling of celebration, that should make him accessible to a far larger circle of readers. Leo Bebb is perhaps the strongest example of a recurring Buechner theme: the sinner and the saint rolled together into one. As Dale Brown puts it: "Is it possible that the unlikeliest of vessels, the obvious shyster, that round ball of contradictions and failings, could function as an instrument of grace?"...
Used availability for Frederick Buechner's Lion Country
September 1971 : UK Hardback