Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Shack

The Shack by William P. Young

There's a website:

I had to think some about what I wanted to write about this book.

As nearly as I can tell this book was first published for public consumption a little over a year ago. The author, William P. Young or "Willie" as he apparently prefers, writes that he originally wrote the book for his children. Willie has a blog, WindRumors, that I personally think carries a very cool name.

My daughter insisted that I read the book and I have rarely, if ever, failed to do something she's asked. She found the book very stimulating as to her own spiritual development. She also let me know that a good many others have felt the same way and, in fact, have purchased enough copies to propel it to 8th place on Amazon of all books and 1st place in several categories. There are 924 reviews as of the date of this blog entry. That's a lot.

I was interested that there were a lot of 1 star reviews for such a popular book with an overwhelming number of 5 star reviews and very few other stars. So most people that bothered to review were wildly enthusiastic but there was a smaller group that was wildly negative and relatively few in between.

It wouldn't get 5 stars from me but it wouldn't get a 1 star either. I think I would give it 3 or maybe 4.

I am very glad I read this book regardless of the stars.

The book opens with some information about the protagonist, Mack. He is a child of a "mean-drunk" father. Mack, as a child, confides in a church counselor that he didn't stop his father from beating his mother and feels guilty about it and confesses this information as a sin. But the church person doesn't maintain the confidence and when Mack gets home he is beaten for a week. Later he leaves home after poisoning all of his father's bottles of booze. He says his father died of natural causes and that leaves the reader wondering if Mack killed his father and the question is really never answered although it is resolved.

Mack grows up, marries and has children of his own and near the beginning of the book the entire family goes on a camping trip. A canoe accident causes Mack to have to save his son from drowning but distracts his attention from his youngest daughter, Missy. She, during that brief interlude, is kidnapped. Later her bloody dress is discovered in an old shack (hence the name of the book) and other evidence points to her death at the hands of a serial killer. Mack blames himself for her murder and for his failure to be able to protect her.

Four years later Mack receives a note in his mailbox from "Papa" which is his wife's name for God. The note invites Mack to come to that very same shack for a visit. Mack decides to accept the invitation but decides to go alone and makes certain his wife and family are out of town so he can avoid uncomfortable explanations.

He does go and he does meet God who appears to him in 3 persons. The person who represents God the Father is a rather large black woman. God the Son appears as Jesus, a middle-eastern Jewish carpenter. God the Holy Spirit is also present as a nearly transparent Asian woman.

I'll not provide any more details in case someone wants to read the book.

If I had to pick one word to describe the book it would be relationship.

And I think that the most useful thing that Willie has done with this book is to highlight the importance of relationship in the Christian faith.

He did it in an imaginative and interesting way, too. That's why I would have to award at least 2 or 3 stars.

The other thing that I find so useful is that his story makes one think about God in unique and somewhat uncomfortable ways. That's worth at least one more star in my opinion.

The story is not really riveting and sometimes seemed slow and tedious to me. The character development lacks for me as well. It was a bit preachy for my taste.

But I found the book to be greatly rewarding and I recommend it to anyone who is prepared to open his or her mind and think about God and relationship in a way that might be a bit unnerving.

I thought about my relationships as I read the book including my relationship with God. But more often I thought about my human relationships.

I have some really good Internet relationships. I've yet to meet a single one of my Internet friends face to face. Yet, I know them as friends and trusted confidants. If someone asked I could describe certain elements of their character. I know a surprising amount about them. And yet I know nothing either.

My appreciation for them does not rest on what they've done for me or not done. Rather it is very much based simply and entirely on this interesting relationship we all have created among us.

If you get the time then try reading The Shack.


Susan M said...

Read it about a month ago. I too found it challenged me to think of God in an interesting and more personal way. Hmm, that's enough for me to give it 3 stars. I passed the book on for others to read, because it made me think.

Lori1955 said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I love books that make you think. I know that my relationship to God is an ever changing one.
It is funny, how we can meet people over a computer and consider them friends. My internet friends probably know more about me than anyone else.

Lifetalker said...

What is so interesting about the book and possibly one reason it is receiving so much attention is it dares to cross conventional thinking in the way we have understood God in the past. Our stereotypical concepts for how we see God has stopped us from seeing Him in some instances as a loving, caring person who wants to connect with His kids.

One interesting and somewhat controversial comment Paul Young makes in his book is sure to make a lot of people think differently about a cliche we have been throwing around in the church for years. It is found on page 149, Paul writes in Jesus' words "My Life Was Not Met To Be An Example That You Can Copy". For years, we the Christian community have held onto the idea that Jesus' life or "behavior" was to be followed. We have all heard and even used the cliche "What would Jesus do?" or WWJD for short.

We have seen it on bracelets and tee shirts for years. Problem is that when you look at it from a new covenant aspect it you would never hear Jesus tell us to mimic his behavior. Instead Jesus would tell us that we are to mimic or copy the relationship he experienced with the Father through the Holy Spirit. It is out of this relationship that behavioral issues, difficulties and temptation finds answers, not through some pull yourself up by the bootstraps mentality. Bottom line is that this book will challenge old belief systems that probably need to be challenged. Only then can you truly experience Christ as life, which beats religion any day!

Scott Johnson
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