The Shack by William Paul Young
Published by Windblown Media on July 1, 2007
Genre(s): fiction, christian, religion
Format & Length: paperback, 252
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Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his “Great Sadness,” Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.
Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.
In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!
The Shack is one of those books that seems to be quite polarizing – people either love it or hate it. And honestly, I can see both sides. Personally, I am right down the middle on this one.
First off, let’s talk about the story itself. We all know this is a tale of a man who, in the midst of his despair from a terrible tragedy, receives a note from God and ultimately, meets and becomes acquainted with God. Bam. That right there stirs up all kinds of controversy. From those who don’t believe in God, to those who believe in a God that would never come face to face with a human, we all have our opinions on this idea. The fact that The Shack opens up the doors to have these conversations is, I think, the best part about this book.
Let me say it right now; I personally do not have an issue with the theological statement and the metaphors Young makes. In fact, I appreciate the uniqueness of this concept and his effort to put these themes into a fictional format. Our entire history has been handed down from generation through generation through stories. So, why not this as well? In addition, I liked that his focus was on having a relationship with God, rather than a specific religion and its set of rituals and practices.
“Who said anything about being a Christian? I’m not a Christian.”
That all being said, this wasn’t a particularly good novel. At first, I thought the language and wording choices were so simple so as to make it widely accessible and to let the themes shine through. I also thought it was possible that it dragged so slowly because I had seen the movie first and therefore knew what to expect. Wrong on both counts.
The writing itself is my biggest issue here. The characters were one-dimensional, their relationships were cliched, and the dialogue did not sound how people actually speak. Scenes that should have been nail-biters plodded along at the same slow pace as the rest of it. Descriptions were overwrought and long-winded. At 250 pages, this could have used some heavy handed editing to condense it and pack more of a punch. With a more skilled writer and more editing, this could have been so much more.
If you have some belief in God and want to go deeper, reading The Shack might be a perfect jumping off point for more questions and conversation. Otherwise, save yourself some time and see the movie instead.