Book Reviews

The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning – Review

The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story Book Cover The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story
Brennan Manning
Fiction: Religious & Inspirational
October 28, 2013

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From the inspirational author of The Ragamuffin Gospel comes a powerful contemporary retelling of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Jack Chisholm is 'the people's pastor.' He leads a devoted and growing megachurch, has several best-selling books, and a memorable slogan, 'We have got to do better.' Jack knows how to preach, and he understands how to chastise people into performing. What he doesn't know is anything about grace. This year, when it comes time for the Christmas sermon, the congregation at Grace Cathedral will look to the pulpit, and Jack will not be there. Of course, they will have seen plenty of him already---on the news.

After an evening of debauchery that leads to an affair with his beautiful assistant, Jack Chisholm finds himself deserted with chilling swiftness. The church elders remove him from his own pulpit. His publisher withholds the royalties from his books. Worst of all, his wife disappears with their eight-year-old daughter.

But just as Jack is hitting bottom, hopeless and penniless, drinking his way to oblivion, who should appear but his long-estranged father, imploring his prodigal son: 'Come home.'

A true companion piece to The Ragamuffin Gospel, The Prodigal illustrates the power of grace through the story of a broken man who finally saw Jesus not because he preached his greatest sermon or wrote his most powerful book, but because he failed miserably. Jack Chisholm lost everything---his church, his family, his respect, and his old way of believing---but he found grace. It's the same grace that Brennan Manning devoted his life to sharing: profound in nature and coming from a God who loves us just as we are, and not as we should be.

'A wonderfully written story that is as entertaining as it is thought provoking.' ---Publishers Weekly, starred review '. . . the consummate final tale. What they have created is the Ragamuffin at his best, full of hope, full of love, and finally, full of belief in the goodness of God.' ---Phyllis Tickle, founding editor, Religion Department, Publishers Weekly

'Brennan Manning's last work continues the powerful message of grace and forgiveness that has transformed so many lives. The Prodigal will transform you too.' ---Mark Batterson, New York Times best-selling author of The Circle Maker


First of all, I have to tell you that this is one of those books that you just don't want to end. Instead of reading a whole chapter at a time, you read a couple of pages to make it last a little bit longer. The characters come to life, and before you know it you feel like you really know them.

Jack Chisholm, 'the people's pastor,'  has problems. I know that we all have problems, but don't we sometimes put "the pastor" on a pedestal?  We tend to look to them when we have problems, but have you ever stopped to think that he may have problems too? This book reminded me that they are just people too.

Jack's slogan was "We have got to do better." This is so true. We do need to do better. When Jack was faced with the consequences of his actions, he nearly gave up. His father finds him, and brings him home. It just happened to be on Christmas, and probably the best gift he had ever received...a second chance.

Throughout the story, we follow Jack down the streets of his hometown. We are able to close our eyes and see the streets, the people, the bar where he thought he could get away, and the day Jack started doing for others with many of the townspeople joining in. We are reminded that no one is perfect, that communities are supposed to come together, and most importantly, about grace.

The slogan Jack used at the megachurch he started is right, we have got to do better. Read this book. Gain from the story, it is written in such a way that it is not preachy, and I hope that you get as much out of it as I have.

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