My Take: The Shack

I just finished reading The Shack by William Paul Young.  Mind you, I’ve read it in bits and pieces during lunch, so forgive me if I get some things wrong about the plot.  There’s been a lot of water under the bridge over the past two weeks.

The book starts out by explaining a little about the background of Mackenzie Phillips.  He’s the son of an abusive father who called himself a Christian.  Mack soon leaves home, grows up, marries a wonderful woman, graduates from seminary somewhere along the way, and then raises four children, including a young daughter, Missy.  At the age of six, Missy is kidnapped and murdered.  The Great Sadness then descends upon Mack.  Four years (I think) after the murder, God, or Papa as Mack’s wife calls him, invites Mack back to the shack where they found Missy’s torn and bloody dress.  Keep in mind that her body was never found.

Mack takes the bait.  Without telling his wife, he heads up and comes face to face with the Trinity.  Papa, in the form of an African-American woman, Jesus, a Middle Eastern carpenter, and Sarayu, an Oriental woman who is the Holy Spirit.  Throughout most of the novel, he is forced to confront the issues encompassing his life.  His past as an abused child.  The murder of his daughter.  His anger toward the murderer.  The need to seek forgiveness and to forgive forgiveness.  His ideas about the character of God and who he thinks God really is.  Though some plot exists, this is a mostly psychological book where Mack works through his issues with lots of dialog.

Here are some things to keep in mind.  First, this is a work of fiction.  Second, the author wrote this novel as an attempt to understand his own painful past.  Guideposts published an article by him recently.  Third, he never intended this to make it as a bestseller.

I know that a lot of people have issues with the theology presented in the book.  I’ll leave the theological debate up to others, as that is way out of my league.  I’ll discuss other aspects.

Plot.  The plot at times was tough for me to read, as it’s more of a psychological plot than anything else.  I could pick it up and put it down without much problem and not lose my spot.  I loved the way that each conversation seemed to address a different point of Mack’s pain.  I also saw deep echoes of the author’s own painful past in the plot as well.  He struggles to answer fundamental questions.  Who is God?  Why did this have to happen?  Can I trust Him?  Who am I really?

Characters.  The characters were interesting.  They challenged me.  And the imagery was incredible.  Wisdom as a woman, which is the image used in Proverbs, really struck me.  I also believe that he had great character development in Mack, who went from being oppressed by the Great Sadness to understanding that he is God’s child, as was Missy.

The writing itself wasn’t as smooth as many published authors, but again, it’s important to keep in mind the intent of the book.  It wasn’t meant to be published but instead was meant to be a way to convey to his children, wife, and friends, what had happened to him and how he worked through it.

So overall?

4 bones out of 5.

Next up:  How Sweet It Is, by Alice Wisler

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