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Home Tonight: Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Author: Henri Nouwen
Published By: Darton, Longman and Todd (London)
Price: £9.95
ISBN: 978 0 232 52773 5

Reviewed by Luke Penkett.

The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming is one of Henri Nouwen’s best known and most loved books. In the middle of his second year at L’Arche Daybreak (Henri joined the community in 1986), a community for people with and without learning disabilities in Toronto, he suffered a breakdown that took him away from L’Arche for seven months. During that period he lived mainly in solitude with the support of two friends from the Homes for Growth team in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Prior to his return to Daybreak, he gave a three-day workshop on the Parable of the Prodigal Son (or the Parable of the Forgiving Father) in which he talked about his raw experience and articulated his self-acceptance as God’s beloved son. His talks were recorded and The Return was written in 1988. Published simultaneously in the USA by Doubleday and in the UK by Darton, Longman and Todd in 1992, it was printed in its first Image Books edition in 1994, and reprinted by Continuum in 1995. The book soon became a best seller throughout the world (it was translated into no less than 14 languages), not least because it enabled folk to discover their personal connection between the parable and their own lives.

Now, thanks to the editorial work of Sister Sue Mosteller CSJ., one of Henri’s closest friends (Sue welcomed Henri to Daybreak when he arrived in 1986), who is now literary executor of his estate, together with a handful of other friends, we have a set of further reflections on the same theme, which were notated and recorded at those workshops back in 1988. This is a powerful guide for spiritual reflection, enabling its readers to commune with God above all, through listening. Sue has provided exercises, suggestions for times of solitude, questions for pondering, simple prayers, and aids for personal journalling.

It is not necessary to have read The Return of the Prodigal Son before reading Home Tonight. It will certainly do no harm if you have. However, I wouldn’t recommend reading The Return of the Prodigal Son straight afterwards. It might well appear somewhat lightweight, which would be a pity. If you have led a series of book study groups, or Quiet Days on the earlier book, a second series would be of enormous benefit.

Home Tonight does not have the line drawings that The Return of the Prodigal Son has, but it does have the most beautiful quotes from an impressively wide range of sources, which illustrate the text in a new and engaging way.

Luke Penkett

Monk and Priest working with L'Arche Community

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You are reading Issue 48 of Ministry Today, published in March 2010.

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