Book Review – Michael English – The Prodigal Comes Home

Book Review – Michael English – The Prodigal Comes Home

The Prodigal Comes Home: My Story of Failure and God’s Story of Redemption

On Sunday night at approximately 01:23AM, i finished this book for the fifth time. I just couldn’t shake the thought out of my head that i should write a review of this book, so here goes!

It is easy to have the opinion that a christian artist who falls, hits the rock bottom, does the rehab thing, records a new album and writes a book of the same title, is doing the “expected” thing. There is a difference in this case. The Michael English we see now, anchoring the ensemble cast of the Gaither Vocal Band, is a very different person. Renewed, restored and forgiven are just a few of the words that can spring to mind to describe Michael English.

Being 19, i came to know of Michael English through various homecoming videos and YouTube clips. I was amazed by his vocal ability and the way he injected his unique stamp upon songs. He was “cool”! I hesitate to use such a general and almost slang word to describe such a stellar artist, but it just seems fitting. I was told by friends who were older than me that Michael English was at the top of the Gospel music industry before the scandal broke. he was able to  cross over between Southern Gospel and contemporary Christian Music with seemingly nonchalant ease. To fall as a christian in such a public arena is bad enough. To fall from the height Michael English did, well, to many it would have been the end.  i subsequently learned about the other events in Michael’s life that led him down the path of drugs, rehab and battles to get to where he is today.

Perhaps i didnt understand or fully appreciate the context in which Michael began his musical career and how this impacted upon his life.  His family life was complex and challenging. Pushed to excel at singing at such a young age and having a father who put him down, when he needed support, left a massive negative impression upon a young Michael English. This would fester and pick at Michael and with many other issues, culminating in panic attacks. This led to feelings of insecurity and a no sense of fulfillment. It pushed him to be self-centered and in a sense, arrogant. The amazing thing is that now, after all he has been through, Michael English is a humble and genuine human being. If you thought Michael sung with conviction and soul in the past, now its truly real and just listen to him sing the verse on “I Believe In A Hill Called Mount Calvary” to exemplify my point.

The book walks you through his early life and brings you through till around the release of his latest solo album, “The Prodigal Comes Home”.  It is graphic and raw in places, Michael just tells it like it happened and this, i feel, is what provides the book with such a legitimate authenticity, which transcends the normal autobiographical books available today. Michael does not make excuses for what happened in the past, which i feel is very brave. It would maybe have been easier to say, well i messed up….BUT, it was not really my fault. etc etc. Not here.

All in all, it’s a great read. Truly inspirational and a great, great companion to the equally stellar CD of the same name. The best bit of all for me, is the fact that Michael English is now back with the Gaither Vocal Band. I’m very keen on the new projects coming out in January. What i got to see live in concert was great, if you havent caught the Gaither Vocal Band since their reincarnation, just go. You will not be disappointed.

The book is available from here.

Read more about the book and Michael English here.

This is best video i could find of a live GVB performance of this song to show just how good Michael still is. The camera work is rather shaky, but its the audio we are really after. Watch in HQ for the best effect!

Update: Seeing as its coming up to Christmas, are there any other biographies/autobiographies that i should consider purchasing? Preferably Christian and Southern Gospel ones?

Philip Boles

Philip is the biggest Southern Gospel fan in Northern Ireland and possibly outside of the USA. He sings with a Northern Irish trio called, "Solid Ground" and blogs when spare time allows. You can follow Philip on Twitter.

MusicScribe Comments

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  1. Reply December 03, 04:30 #1 Kyle

    Michael’s book is the first (and so far, only) that I have ever read completely through, cover to cover, in one setting. I have gone back and read it several times since. It truly is a great piece of writing, especially for anyone who wants to get into Christian music. His honesty and candidness is unparalleled.

  2. Reply December 03, 15:12 #2 JayTee

    I was impressed with the book too, Phil. His writing style is easy to read and very refreshing for an autobiography.

    • Reply December 03, 17:54 Phil

      i think, as Kyle said, its a great for anyone wanting to get into Christian music and to learn a bit more about it, and it comes down to the writing style to express that properly.

  3. Reply December 09, 18:47 #3 Sandy

    I to have read Michael English’s book, I purposely read it, to help me deal with the insincerity that I feel about him.
    I can vividly remember seeing him on a Gaither Video several years ago, where he was so glad to be welcomed back into the fold. Bill went on and on about how he was so glad to welcome him back, and that he would always be a member of the Gaither family. After Michael sang a very moving rendition of ” I Am Free”, Vestal Goodman came over and locked him in am embrace that lasted way too long, both had tears streaming down their faces. I was very much impressed, thinking that he had sincerely repented and had made a change in his life.
    About 2 months later, I picked up my copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia’s Main Newspaper, only to find an article that a Popular Gospel Singer had been arrested in Nashville for forging prescriptions to get drugs, the Popular Singer was Michael English. I can tell you that totally destroyed how I felt about him, and what I seen on the video. Now, when I see him get all emotional when he sings a particular song, I just have a hard time dealing with the sincereity of it. I have even gone so far, as to label him “A Drama King”. I know it is not for me to judge, and I am not the one he will have to answer to. But my main reason for reading the book, was hoping that I could come to grips with how I felt about him. I came away from the book, not feeling any better, as it told me a lot more that I did not know, and now I feel worse. I suppose it had something to do with the frame of mind I was in when I read it. I sold the book on Ebay, I hope the buyer got more of a blessing than I did out of it. I still deal with this issue, everytime I see him sing with the GVB.

    • Reply March 26, 18:46 Nora van Wyk

      There is a vast difference between an affair(morality) and drug addiction(illness).With his background(verbal abuse,i.e. “will never amount to anything” etc. on top of ADD and sexual abuse Michael was extremely vulnerable to addiction.All the tears were for his sins but then as he still had very low self esteem and by chance discovered that pain killers dulled the pain he became addicted.That was NOT intentional.

      Unless you’ve had someone close to you who has experienced that you will never understand.They are basically good people.They fall down a few times before they can handle it.It takes a lot of strength to be able to do that and Michael made it very clear that by giving all up to God and working with God he is now handling it. With what he has since experienced many would have fallen again but he now shows the hopeless and helpless that with the help of God you can manage.

      He is providing hope to them who feel that they will never be able to handle it(that is soul destroying) and on top living with people who do not understand.

      I’ve read many, many autobiographies and his book is one of two who do not make any excuses by blaming other people. He is brutally honest and graphic and takes responsibility for his actions.That is to be admired.I now see him as someone who has grown tremendously and gained wisdom through his experiences.

      REMEMBER It is not how many times you fall down but whether you get up after the last one.Do you believe that David was not sincere when he wrote the psalms. Remember that he had a man killed because he wanted his wife.I truly believe that Michael now is a witness for hisour Saviour.

      • Reply March 26, 22:33 Sandy

        You have your opinion, I have mine……

      • Reply March 26, 22:36 Phil


        That is the best comment i have received in a long time. It sums up exactly how i feel about Michael English. Thanks for reading. :)

    • Reply August 14, 23:10 Anna

      Well Sandy who are you to label anyone. Seems to me whoever falls and struggles to get back up, to fall back down and get back up. So on and so on. It’s called a battle and there are real,struggles that come with drug addiction. You have some nerve to stand in judgement of his life. Who do you think you are with such a “Holier than Thou” attitude. You have some serious soul searching to do for yourself. King David knew not to speak against or negative about Saul because he knew he was Gods anointed. Jimmy Swaggart didn’t understand this as he called Jim Baker a cancer in the Body of Christ. Two years after that his own sin was publicly exposed. You need to be very careful with the arrogance that is within you and reel in your pointed finger.

  4. Reply March 28, 22:58 #4 Nora van Wyk

    It is so true that everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion.Let us,however, just put opinions aside for a while and focus on facts.Sandy, why don’t you do research on addiction and then contact the best drug habilitation centre in USA or the world to determine whether addiction is a disease or not,what the primary causes are and the negative impact mentally and physically it has on the person.

    Regarding sincerety, if you would please allow me Phil,I would like to refer at this stage to Elvis Presley.He was the king of rock and roll(even though he said in concert in response to a banner that he was not,only Jesus Christ is the King.He was the first rock and roller ever, (against the strongest opposition) to sing gospel songs at rock and roll concerts and make gospel albums.They were scared that it would harm his career but he persisted..Apart from the one time on Ed Sullivan Show in the 50’s he was addicted to prescription drugs when he sang at his concerts in the 70’s.When he died he was reading “The shroud of Turin” and on the turntable in his bedroom was an acetate of gospel songs by JD Sumner and the Stamps. The fact that he was an addict does that now mean that he was not sincere regarding gospel.

    Coming back to Michael English, he is the first celebrity ever, to my knowledge who confessed to an affair without having been exposed.That is a testimony to his honesty.He did not name the church who threw him out which is a testomony to his integrity and innate goodness because he did not point fingers at others only at himself.

    Even though it is extremely,extremely, extremely unlikely that he will have a relapse again I for one categorically state that I won’t judge or reject him if he does have one as I’m not in his shoes and addiction is a disease that he will have to fight until his dying day.I will pray for him like so many others will.
    In spite of that he now had to undergo a very painful operation and has to wait and see whether it has affected his singing voice.Again his honesty is very apparent by stating his good and bad days.He is taking it day by day and depending on God by asking His help in his dark moments.

    The Bible makes it very clear that you have to forgive 70 times 7.It also states that you do not speak ill of your neighbour and Michael has shown in his book that he does not do that.

    So opinions are fine but they must be well informed.

  5. Reply March 28, 23:09 #5 Nora van Wyk

    I’m so sorry but the following should have been included as well.I admire Michael for the basic good person he always has been(he had his faults and he will still have some) and for the wise,compassionate person that he is now.

  6. Reply June 09, 19:33 #6 Nancy Batts

    I just finished Michael’s book and I can’t get it out of my mind. Thank God he won his battle. I am also very happy that he is with th Gaither Vocal Band. He has a beautiful voice and I love him very much. I am going to the Christian Store and look for his CD. Nancy June 9, 2012

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