Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Prodigal: a Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

The Prodigal

The title alone is a strong clue that this novel is a contemporary retelling of the prodigal's son parable.
What Manning and Garrett have done is create a modern tale of a fallen man, megachurch founder Jack Chisholm, who while he finds himself saved by his earthy father's strong love, also finally finds the true meaning of this well known parable of God's willingness to accept us into the fold despite our pasts.
When Chisholm's one night infidelity is discovered and shared via social media, his life appears to shatter within hours.  His wife and child are whisked away from the press to a safe place by the church and won't communicate with Jack. Relieved of all his pastoral duties, his funds are cut off, and he is left to sink on his own.  Humiliated, Jack flees to Mexico to drink himself into forgetfulness and obscurity.  But his father, whom he had walked away from years ago, comes and takes him home to small town Texas.  There, as Jack begins to confront problems he'd left there a decade earlier, he really learns the strength of a father's love.

First, let me tell you that Rev. Jack Chisholm is NOT a likable person at the beginning of the book. His father and sister have every reason to leave him in his self-made heap, but they don't and it is through them, along with Father Frank, that Jack and the readers begin to see how redemptive love for another can be.  It is clear that Jack will need to decide which life - small town Texas and the good deeds he has undertaken there or a return to the coastal megachurch with its world wide following is the path that his earthly father and his heaven father want for this restored son.

Author Brennan Manning, a Catholic priest, is possibly best known for his work The Ragamuffin Gospel.
He spent much time working with the poor and considered himself a forgiven sinner. I believe his personal life gave realism to Father Frank and to the townspeople of this novel.  Manning died last year.
Garrett is an Episcopalian lay preacher, a professor of English, and author of over 15 books.  I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher for review purposes.  All opinions are mine.

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