Monday, August 25, 2008

Book Review: The Shack by William P. Young

Book ReviewHave you ever asked yourself why bad things happen to good people? It is one of the most often asked questions when tragedy strikes, or when a family loses a loved one, or even as we sit and watch the evening news and hear of Amber alerts, kidnappings, murders. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do good people suffer while bad people prosper?

You may very well have asked yourself one of those very questions. Haven't we all? Haven't we all known someone who seemed to live right, friendly and giving of themselves, even someone you might consider a very Godly person, only to be struck down by some terrible illness or accident? My own mother was one such person. She was a very Godly woman, very giving of herself, and loved by virtually everyone who ever met her. She lost her battle with cancer several years ago at the young age of 58.

Why does it happen? When at the same time we see drug dealers, white collar criminals, and thieves prosper from their dirty dealings. Why does it happen? How can it be fair?

Author William P. Young addresses this age old question in his novel, The Shack. When Mack Phillips loses his daughter on a camping trip, never to recover her, his life is thrown into turmoil. He suffers what he calls "The Great Sadness" as he struggles to learn what happened to his precious little girl, eventually learning that she has been the victim of a ruthless serial killer who preys on young girls.

Mack struggles in his relationship with God, trying to understand how a benevolent, loving God could allow such a thing to happen to such an innocent little girl. Meanwhile, Mack's wife continues to have such a close relationship with God that she regularly refers to Him as Papa.

Mack finds himself even more lost and confused when he receives a letter in the mail inviting him to return to the shack where his little girl disappeared, and the letter appears to have come directly from God. Regardless of Mack's attempts to push the letter from his thoughts, the possibility of meeting either God -- or possibly even the killer -- at the shack keep bringing him back to the mystery letter.

Author Young takes us on an incredible journey, as we hear the tale of a heartbroken father pursuing justice, answers, his daughter. Read The Shack and you will find yourself in the midst of the pain that Mack Phillips feels at the loss of his daughter. You will feel the frustration and the agony that Mack feels as he finds himself in doubt of his God. You will feel the hope and anticipation that Mack feels as he returns to the shack in response to the unexplained letter he received. You will feel all of the emotions, wonder, and awe that Mack feels as the story takes unexpected twists and turns page after page. And you will be floored by the surprise ending.

You will likely find answers to some of the questions above within the pages of this inspired novel. If you read only one book this year, read The Shack. If, like me, you read several, make this the next book you read. You cannot possibly be disappointed.

Your comments?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This book was highly recommended to me by a few friends and one offered me a copy. The 3 or 4 people who recommended it all spoke of this amazing story that would leave you crying and laughing. Sounded like a good Seinfeld episode so what the heck.
I am well-versed in scripture. I am not a big fan of fiction in general and “Christian fiction” generally leaves me wondering why Christians can only write at a 4th grade level. That said, I took a deep breath and dove in, while trying to listen for what all the oohs and aahs were about.
With all due respect to Mr Young, I literally found myself cringing at the sophomoric attempts at metaphor and allegory found at least every 3-4 pages (page 18, ‘As he had feared, a significant lump had already formed, emerging like a humpbacked whale breaching the wild waves of his thinning hair’). Huh?
Will someone please let him know that adjectives and adverbs will not expire if left untyped! I really tried to allow the “transcendent” message of “true relationship” speak through this, but the stilted, stock characters and primer-level writing just left me distracted. I understand now from your intvw that he wrote this to his children which explains some of the above, I suppose. I do not intend to be cruel just to provide perspective to potential readers that I was very disappointed at the writing quality.

I take no issue with his intentions to tell a story that allows people to understand God in a different way. But the cliched large black woman as God or God messenger is just that, a cliche(Della Reese let alone Morgan Freeman/Danny Glover etc as the designated black man that plays God) . And without having any idea what was coming, I started groaning about 5 words into the description of the ‘not so handsome guy in work clothes with Middle eastern features with wood shavings on his shirt’. To quote a comparable literary character, Mr Charles Brown…’Aaaaargh!’
So that said, if you have a somewhat cynical literary elitist in your personal network you might want to pick up a different book.
As far as the expected hysterical warnings from the self proclaimed watchmen and gatekeepers is concerned. It is ascribed to Peter in Acts 10:34-35 to have clearly stated, ‘Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that fears him, and works righteousness is accepted with him’. That’s straight from scripture describing how a brand new teaching was coming forth to edify an entire group of unchurched peoples. That those who wanted to limit the understanding of God to THEIR understanding of God (the Judeocentric followers of Christ)were being dragged into reality by a revelation from the Living God. He even caused something to happen that they could not explain by their known theology (speaking in other tongues) to emphasize his point.
Point being that there really is no clearly delineated line between known revelation and heresy throughout scripture. The operative question is this…is God and his transcendant, unconditional love revealed to us? because that was the sole purpose of Christ. Not to feed our base impulses of religiosity and self-regard.
So enjoy the general relational concepts if you’re not twisted up by the writing and start thinking of God as something other than angry. And be loved. That’s the good news.

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