Title: “The Shack” by William Paul Young
The novel begins with Mack receiving a note in his mailbox from “Papa”, saying that he would like to meet with him that coming weekend at the shack. As Mack hasn’t seen his abusive father since he left home when he was 13, Mack is confused. It dawns on him that the invitation could be from God, whom his wife Nan refers to as “Papa”. With great trepidation and suspicion, Mack sets off for the shack without telling his family. Will this turn out to be a hoax? Is someone playing a trick on him? If it is true then why would God want to talk to him of all people?
My overall impression?
I thought this was going to either be a wishy washy evangelical attempt at a novel that would leave me cold and a little bit embarrassed, or it would be a thumping good read that would stretch me and make me think. I am glad to report it was the latter.
When Mack travels to the shack he has no idea what is going to meet him when he gets there, or how the weekend was going to play out and that was kind of how I felt about starting to read this book. I tried a couple of times to start it and (ironically enough) it was on my third attempt when I got hooked into it. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away because it really would spoil it for you if you decide to read it yourself, but I can tell you that it is a fantastically multi-layered story that gave me plenty of food for thought.
Mack does indeed meet God and over the course of the next few days they talk. And talk. And listen. And talk some more.
The content of their conversations are fascinating and they made me think a bit differently about the spiritual side of life and made me think a lot about relationships – how they are the glue that hold us together, how love never ever dies, and so much more. It made me think a lot about judgement, and forgiveness too in ways that hadn’t occurred to me before.
On the downside some of it was pretty far-fetched, even to a very openly spiritual person like myself. I didn’t like the personification of God in the way that was done here, although I can see why it was done that way. (As before, if I tell you how that is done then it will spoil the book if you read it yourself). I can also see how the book would challenge the established church, but by the same token who’s to say that they have all the answers anyway?
Who are the main characters?
The central characters are Mack and of course God, and the story is told in the third person by Mack’s friend Willie. Mack’s wife and children also figure in the story, especially his daughter Missy.
Where is it set?
The American Northwest, specifically Multnomah Falls and Oregon. The countryside is described beautifully and it is somewhere I would love to go and visit myself someday.
Will I read the next in the series?
I’m not sure. I believe there is a book called “The Shack Revisited” but I think that everything that needed to be said was said in this one. I can’t imagine what else could be added with another book. Unless there is someone else who is working through some pain and grief in their lives in the same way Mack was but then, what would I learn new from the next one that hasn’t already been told in this one?
Would I recommend it to my friends?
I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in Christianity or who has questions about how others see how God works. It also works as a classic “whodunit” to a certain degree, although that part of the story doesn’t resolve fully. If you have any thoughts yourself about spirituality, or have questions about the holy trinity then this is one that would certainly give you something to go at.