As a practicing Christian, I like to read Christian literature to help with the growth of my faith and now I am a member of my church’s book club. After finishing If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg in January, I started reading our February book, The Shack by William Paul Young straight away!
If you hadn’t already figured it out I was super excited to read this international bestseller which I have heard been described as both inspirational and controversial. It all starts with Mack Philips and the abduction of his youngest daughter, Missy, during a family vacation. The hunt for Missy leads investigators to an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness, where they discover evidence that she may have been brutally murdered. Four years later, in the midst of his “Great Sadness”, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he goes back fearing he is walking back into his darkest nightmares instead what he finds there will change his world forever.
From page one the reader knows that Missy has been abducted and murdered, what follows is a dark, mysterious and agonising look back at the events that lead to this terrible conclusion. We follow Mack – a loving father with a simple, strong faith in God – as he takes his three children on a wonderful camping holiday, yet all the while it is tinged by the horror we know is to come but the characters are heartbreakingly unaware of. I found myself barely able to tear myself away from it all. After these terrible events have unfolded we then witness the dark shadow that falls over Mack and his family, shaking his faith right to the very foundations.
That culminates with Mack returning to the shack, however as he stepped through the door for the big reveal I must confess to being disappointed… and most frustrating of all is I can’t tell you why I was disappointed because that would ruin the surprise for you! What I can say is there was no dramatic booming voice; hosts of angelic beings or blinding white light – I was left feeling a little underwhelmed. However, I persisted and I am pleased I did because there is a method to Young’s surprising U-turn in style and pace which does lead to some beautifully touching moments and some nice surprises too. Plus there are still many twists and turns to be revealed all the way up to the end.
After finishing this book, I can more clearly understand how it has been described as both inspirational and controversial. Through Mack’s experiences, questions and anger with God, Young reveals his vision of God’s personality, nature and vision for us and the world. While I personally found many of Young’s vision beautiful, comforting and inspirational, I can also totally see how many might deem some of them highly controversial. Funnily enough while I found it quite easy to imagine and believe even some of Young’s more out there ideas, it was in fact some of Mack’s reactions to them that I didn’t find natural or comfortable – this could just be the reserved Brit in me though and fortunately there were only a few instances of this.
Overall, The Shack is not perfect but I did find it to be a gripping mystery and an interesting look into where God is in our hardest moments. I must stress the ‘I’ in that though because this is definitely a book that could divide opinion strongly, therefore it should hopefully make for an interesting discussion in our next book club meeting. Good read.
Have you read this? Or any of William Paul Young’s other books?
What’s in a Name 2017 – 2/6 (a title with a building)