The Shack by William Paul Young

This book has been out for a while. I remember when it was all a-buzz,  in the Christian community. It made an impact in the secular market as well. I knew it was out there and to be honest, I’m not sure why I never picked it up. Maybe I was up to my ears with an emotional pre-teen, maybe I was in a non-reading season or maybe, (and more likely), I just left it alone because sometimes when people are making a big deal about something I intentionally stay away from it, not wanting to be sucked in.

I decided this was the year to finally read it so I placed it on my 2014 TBR (to be read) Pile Challenge list.

And I have to say, I loved it.

In the first few chapters, I was completely drawn in. The scenic and heart-wrenching story had a very “literary” feel to it. I didn’t expect that.  I  expected the writing to be good I just didn’t expect  to feel like I was reading something great or important in a literary sense. (You know, like Gatsby, and what they say about it being written in such beautiful prose). Then the mood and style shifted. That disappointed me, but looking back, I can appreciate why. The different styles of writing helped to set the appropriate  mood for what was happening in the story.

The Shack is the story of a man who has experienced the worst kind of loss and brokenness. He struggles to move on and have a meaningful life but his grief and his guilt keep him in a phase of life that he calls The Great Sadness.  Mack receives a letter in the mail one day that he can only assume is from God. The letter asks that he come and meet with Him at the Shack, the place where his world came crashing down. God wants to spend some time with him so they can catch up and hash out Mack’s issues.

Despite fearing that he may be going crazy, Mack decides to meet God and that’s when it got to feeling a little goofy to me. It may be that I just interpreted what I was reading differently than I should have initially, but for a short time, it was hard for me to get into the new groove that the book was bringing. It wasn’t the “surprise” element about who God was that was strange for me. God presents himself in a very non-traditional way, (reminiscent of The Stand by Stephen King), and though that has bothered some readers, it didn’t bother me at all. I realized that I was reading fiction and I wasn’t expecting truth to be told the way I may expect it to be from the pulpit or from Scripture. I think it just felt too comical or light for a little while when the mood thus far had been so somber and serious. It took me a chapter or two to adjust. Once adjusted, I was all in.

I don’t want to say too much about the story because I really think this is a great book for anyone to pick up. Believers and non-believers alike. It is a book that applies the circumstances of life to the nitty-grittyness of faith and how the two work together and often get messy. I can’t tell you the number of times God would be talking to Mack and He would say something so unconventional, and I would think to myself, “Yes, but, what about when you said….” and then Mack would say the exact thing I was thinking. This happened over and over. And over. He would remember scriptures and teachings and basic impressions that all mainstream Christians would likely agree with and God would just turn it upside down and present a different perspective all together. I think this aspect of the book makes some Christians uncomfortable. I understand that. I proceeded with caution myself while reading but in the end, I felt enriched, not confused.

Mack does get the opportunity to have almost all of his questions answered about the tragedy and about life in general. That’s a satisfying ending that unfortunately doesn’t mirror the majority of real life. But it sure does make for a great read and in classic fiction flair, when  almost all is said and done, there’s a little twist at the end.

Nicely done Mr. Young, nicely done.

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