Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Book Review: The Shack by William P. Young

The Shack
William P. Young
Windblown Media
256 pages

The Shack was recommended to me by many people. I read reviews on book blogs that I follow. My friends and family on Facebook recommended it. Some said it was the best book they have ever read. When I checked it out of the library, the librarian told me to have tissues handy. So I was really looking forward to reading it. Now that I have finished it, I have mixed feelings about it.

First, about the book. From the back of the book:

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!

This book seemed to me to be two different stories. The first story is about Mack and what happens to his family and how they deal with it. The second story is about what Mack experiences in the shack.

The first story reads like any other story of tragedy. How it effects people and how the people involved deal with it. And on that level, it is a good story.

The second part reads more like a dream. It's style reminds me of The Pilgrim's Progress. When Mack meets God in the shack, he meets God in all three persons. He calls God the Father, "Papa", even though God is personified as a woman. He is taken aback by Jesus' appearance. He is expecting Him to look like we see Him portrayed in the movies. Instead, He looks like an average looking Jewish man. The Holy Spirit is personified as a woman named Sarayu who is hard to focus your eyes on. She is colorful, translucent and rarely still. Papa, Jesus and Sarayu help Mack find his way past the pain to forgiveness and love.

The more I think about this part of the story, the more I don't care for it. God is portrayed as human-like and flawed. He marginalizes institutions like church, seminaries and even marriage. According to this book, all God cares about is relationships. If we love Him, then that is good enough for Him. It suggests that people can come to God on any path.

I feel like I cannot recommend this book. To me, this is not an accurate depiction of how the Bible describes God. I know that many people will disagree with me, but this is how I feel.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


Jennifer, Snapshot said...

That's my gut feeling about the book, too, and it's why I haven't really dipped into yet. I do want to read it so that I can discuss it with others.

ibeeeg said...

Hmmm...your points are the reason why I cannot read this book at this time. A friend of mine is reading it currently, I wonder if she will feel the same as you? I am thinking so.
Thanks for the review.

hopeinbrazil said...

Interesting review of a controversial book. It's been translated into Portuguese and some of my friends are reading it so even though it doesn't sound like my kind of book I may have to read it. I have a hunch I'll agree with you wholeheartedly.

Mercy's Maid said...

I read this recently and, like you, I have mixed feelings about it.

I will get around to organizing my thoughts and writing my own review in the next few days, but I did want to get your thoughts on one thing.

I see you mentioned "It suggests that people can come to God on any path."

But in the book, Mack asks Papa if what he's saying is that all paths lead to him. And Papa replies that that's not what he's saying. What he's saying is that He will search for us on any path and lead us to him. When I write my review, I will find the exact quote.

That made me feel a little more comfortable about the "theology" of the book. Did you find Papa's resonse to be too "out there"?