Every once in a while you come across book you weren’t expecting. I knew going in that The Shack by William P. Young was a controversial theological novel, but far too often books with inspirational motivation have tendencies to become objective and lose their literary value in the process.
Four years after the brutal murder of his young daughter Missy, the main character Mackenzie Allen Philip is drawn back to the scene of the crime. Deep in the snow buried backwoods of Oregon, he finds more than just a reminder of his pain in the sullen shack. In the same guise as Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Mack faces the manifestation of Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu, suggestion of the three Christian doctrine of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
With a first printing of The Shack appearing in April 2007 and the millions of copies that followed, the popularity of the book is without question. This is also why the book finally found itself on my desk years later. What’s all the hype about? The version reviewed here is the Windblown Media Publishing third printing from November 2007.
Without a doubt, this book has a tremendous amount of spiritual undertones (and an even greater amount of unconcealed evangelization), but at its core it is a story of tragedy, redemption, reconciliation and a lot of other –tions the protagonist leans on. But foremast, it is a story. From a fiction standpoint, the character Mack is a little too predictable at times. Many readers will have expectations going into the book and might get the sense that Mack’s naivety is forced because “we” know what is going on, so he should too.
For such a spiritual read, a book with a chapter (number 9 if you’re looking) titled “A Long Time Ago in a Garden Far, Far Away” definitely has its lighter elements. It is through subtleties like this that readers will be able to take a breath and enjoy the book for what it is. It is a story. The message and what the reader gets out of it is purely up to him or her.
The Shack by William P. Young may not be one of those literary gems written with fluent prose, but it does bode well from a storyteller’s perspective where a “moral of the story” is paramount.