Friday, June 12, 2009

The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity by Wm. Paul Young

250 pages
Copyright 2007
Windblown Media
Newbury Park, California

Dun-dun-dun-da! (dramatic sound) Last weekend I finished the somewhat controversial, but #1 New York Times bestseller, The Shack by Wm. Paul Young.

I first learned of The Shack last fall. Everyone seemed to be talking about how great this book was, so I added it to my "TBR" list. Then I learned a little more about the story plot and I decided it wasn't for me and I took it off. But then I read Carrie's review over at Reading To Know and I got to wondering again whether or not I should read it. My indecision was put to an end when I received a copy for my birthday by a family member. Ready or not I now knew I had to read the book. If nothing else, then to get it off my mind and iron out my own opinion.

So I started The Shack on the drive home from our vacation last weekend -- it was a long car ride and by the time we arrived home I only had three chapters left to read, which I finished before the weekend was over. It has taken me a few days to collect my thoughts and the following is my review.

Book Summary
The Shack is the story of Mack (Mackenzie Allen Phillips) who is overcome with "the Great Sadness" when his youngest daughter is abducted and murdered while on a family vacation. The turning point in the story comes when Mack receives a note from God asking him to return to the shack where the police found some of his daughter's clothing (though her body was never recovered). Mack goes to the shack, but isn't sure what to expect. The rest of the story is about what Mack finds and how it forever changes his life.

My Thoughts
Overall The Shack is a fast and fairly easy read, unless of course the reader wishes to take time to ponder the depth of the conversations Mack has while visiting the shack. From what I could gather there was a lot to think about in this story. It was definitely more than just a story of a father who is grieving the loss of his daughter.

There were little nuggets of truth in the story and there were also some weird things -- things I didn't agree with and things portrayed in a way I personally didn't like. But as I read I kept in mind the fact that The Shack is a work of fiction. It was never intended to be a devotional, or a "how to for Christians", or an addition to the Bible. In fact, Young has clarified in interviews, that he never intended to publish The Shack for the general public to read. It was a story he wrote to share with his children and close friends. (It was only after strong encouragement by his friends that he even submitted the book to a publisher.) But it was published and so I think the best way to explain what The Shack is would be to say: it is a fictional story of what happens to a man dealing with one of the greatest grief in life. It might be considered on par with the fictional "fantasy" works of Frank Peretti. Some people may agree with the contents of the story and conversations within the story, others may not. But most readers will be safe if they keep in mind it is a work of fiction. And if the book brings up questions in the reader's mind they should jot them down and take the time to pursue the answers both themselves and with their Pastor or church.

As I mentioned above, I was disinterested in this book because of the plot. I didn't want to read a story about a child being kidnapped and murdered, especially a little girl since I have a little girl. But that wasn't the point of this book. It was a means to an end, an element of the story plot to bring about the message of the story. Details were not included, for which I was grateful.

If you could say I learned anything while reading The Shack it might be that I was reminded how important it is to leave all my worries -- both the small and the impossibly big -- in the hands of God. It is so easy to be afraid and to stress over the problems here on earth (both at home and around the world). It is so easy to fear evil; to fear the unknown troubles that are predicted in the future, but to fear is wrong. Christians should be wary and should be proactive for Christ, but they should also trust in the Lord. God is always with His children, even in the darkest moments. Because we live in a fallen world there is evil, but that doesn't mean God can't help us through it (think of the martyrs who died for Christ hundreds of years ago... or even today).

On a scale of 1-5, 1 being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate The Shack a 2.5 to 3. My opinion might be summed up in the statement, "it was OK." It wasn't by any means a phenomenal piece of literature. It felt at times a little cliche, but the idea -- the story plot was unique and somewhere out there it might impact people for the good. I'd advise readers to remember it is a piece of fiction and to borrow vs. buy this book until you know for certain if it's one you want to pass on. It might also behoove the reader to find out what their own pastor or church leader's opinion of the book is.


Carrie said...

It was curious hearing yoru thoughts on this book. Although I don't agree with your final conclusion, I do have my sympathies towards it! (I'm sureyou are not surprised by my saying so.) Anyway, I'm rather (very) glad you decided to read it!

Rachelle said...

I know I have to read this book. My dad found it very helpful in his grieving process after my cousin's murder. And I just haven't wanted to have to face it again. Some things we leave buried because they are so painful. But I have felt again and again God reminding me that He is present and grieves the results of the Fall with us. And if this book is something I can use to continue to overcome fears and develop more faith in God, I need to read it.

Kelly said...

Sarah, I have to just thank you for offering voice of reason. I skimmed Carrie's review just now, and I am so mad I could spit. Why IS it that Christians feel it is our right to tear anyone that says anything about God to pieces just because they may not be painting the same picture of God we know? I didn't like The Shack, purely because of the fact that I'm not comfortable with the way it paints God (well, that and the "not particularly well-written" part), but I have met both the author and the publishers and I know what their heart is in writing and publishing the book. It *IS* fiction. It *IS* a story. A story written for family and friends who knew the author and knew what God had done and was doing in his heart. It is a story written for those who need to see that God may be more than they have been taught, who need to "think outside the box" because there is no other way for them to know God. If you read this book, (or any other book out there, for that matter) with the Holy Spirit, I really, really feel that He is able to keep you from stumbling. The same is true of any untruth your pastor may include in his sermons. *sigh* We're the nastiest people sometimes, we discerning, fundamental Christians. Yick.