Henri Nouwen and the Return of the Prodigal Son:

The Making of a Spiritual Classic

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The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming is Henri Nouwen’s most popular book, selling over one million copies since its publication in 1992. What accounts for its ongoing popularity as a spiritual classic? Drawing from extensive research in Nouwen’s archives, author and Chief Archivist for the Henri Nouwen Legacy Trust, Gabrielle Earnshaw, provides a detailed account of how the book came to be written, shedding light on Nouwen’s writing process and aspects of his life experience that influenced his insights and ideas.

Earnshaw examines Nouwen’s intellectual formation as well as the impact of his family and friends on the shape of the book. Letters, many published here for the first time, give us a privileged look at Henri’s world during the nine years he took to complete the book. Earnshaw considers how it compares to other books published at the same time to place the work and its author in a historical, cultural and religious/spiritual context. Finally, she explores how Nouwen himself was changed by the book and why twenty-three later it continues to touch the hearts and minds of 21st-century readers.

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Praise for Henri Nouwen and The Return of the Prodigal Son

“Earnshaw traces out for us Nouwen’s state of soul as he gave birth to this precious book. You will understand Nouwen more deeply after you read Earnshaw. A new and wonderful contribution.” —Fr. Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, author of Domestic Monastery and many other books

“Gabrielle puts words around Henri’s heartache as it mutates into a gift of affirming others, and his vulnerability into a source of blessing with compassion.” —Sue Mosteller, CSJ, author, member of L’Arche Daybreak Community, and close friend to Henri Nouwen

“Henri Nouwen’s spiritual adventure with Rembrandt’s painting brought the Gospel alive for me and for many others. Now Gabrielle Earnshaw, a true Nouwen expert, reveals the story of how it all happened.” —James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage and Becoming Who You Are

Podcast—Henri Nouwen, Now & Then