Brennan Manning is an author and speaker who has written over 15 books. He is probably most well-known for the highly successful, The Ragamuffin Gospel. In his latest and final book, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir, Manning pens his life story, leaving it all on the table.

All Is GraceI like biographies. I find it interesting to see how someone else lived. In that sense, All Is Grace is captivating because it is filled with stories of Manning’s life. There are stories of his childhood and the games he and the neighborhood kids would play. There are stories of his experience in the military; there are stories of his decision to join the Franciscan priesthood. He tells of how he met a woman and left the priesthood to marry her. He speaks candidly of his alcoholism and the many stays in treatment facilities. While reading All Is Grace, I loved how it felt like I was spending my afternoons with an aged man who was willing to share his life with me.

However, there were a few things that really bothered me about this book. The first thing that bothered me was how everything Manning spoke about, every story that he told, had a somber, negative spin. It is evident that his intention is to be as open as possible, not presenting the guise of being someone who had it all together. In doing so, I feel like the pendulum swung to an extreme in the opposite direction. For example, the stories of Manning’s childhood were marked by unloving parents and his desire for just one friend. His stories of marriage start beautifully, detailing how God provided speaking engagements after he left the priesthood to marry but transform into a relating of Manning’s selfishness in his weekends away from home used to drink until passing out. All the stories related in this book had a depressing bent to them. Yes, bad things happen and our lives definitely have some tragedies and consequences to sin, but the glass cannot always be half empty.

Another aspect of All Is Grace that I found slightly confusing is the title. This book, for the most part, has very little to do with grace. In fact, there is very little in this book about God at all. As I stated before, most of the book is about Brennan Manning’s life, until the last section. Here, Manning offers his “last sermon”, which, I’m guessing, is his attempt to tie in the previous stories of loneliness, selfishness, and extreme alcoholism. He sums up it was possible for him to constantly fall back into alcoholism with three words: “these things happen.” It just seems to me like a bit of a cop out.

Overall, I found All Is Grace to be intriguing due to the opportunity to peer in to the life of Brennan Manning. However, apart from that, I found this book to be depressing and was not impressed by the theological weight of this popular writer and speaker. I am disappointed to say, I just expected more.