Review by Ryder Islington
William Paul Young has managed to upset the Christian apple-cart with his novel, The Shack. When Mackenzie ‘Mack’ Philips takes three of his children on a camping trip in the mountains of Oregon, tragedy strikes. His youngest child, Missy, is abducted, and after untolled hours of investigation, only two pieces of evidence are found: A ladybug stick pin is found at the campsite, and Missy’s dress, covered in blood is found in an old abandoned shack.
The Great Sadness engulfs Mack, and though his wife, Nan, still calls G-d Papa, Mack’s anger drives a wedge between him and The Father.
Four years later, during a nasty ice storm, Mack finds a note in the mailbox: Mack, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together. –Papa
Mack wonders if he that fall he took on the way back from the mailbox did something to his brain. Is this note some kind of sick joke? Or is it from Missy’s abductor? Mack has to know the truth, and if it really is from the Almighty, Mack has some choice words for Him. In a borrowed Jeep, with his wife and kids visiting relatives, Mack packs up his courage, and a revolver, and heads back to the shack.
And so begins the journey, as Mack comes face to face with Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu, the Holy Spirit. Mack’s fury knocks up against three entities who challenge all of his preconceived ideas of church, religion, faith, forgiveness, love and eternity.
Can you imagine G-d as a large African-American woman who loves to cook, laugh, and drink wine? Welcome to The Shack, where Papa cooks greens, hugs heartily, and doles out large portions of truth. Where Mack must face his own childhood, as well as the recent loss of his baby girl, both festering sores that need a balm to be found only in the heart of The Father.
This story tackles a big question: How can a loving G-d allow unspeakable pain in the lives of the children he claims to love? I found it irreverent and blasphemous, and all the things found in Jesus by the religious leaders of his time.
It challenges the beliefs drilled into members of Christian churches worldwide. Its theme is simple: We are loved. My eyes were opened to magnificent truths by this story. I cried the first time I read it. And the second time, too.
If you only read one novel this year—or ever—make it this one.