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.
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.
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.