Book review: The Shack
by Wm. Paul Young
It’s amazing how big a splash this self-published book made. I read the story several years back, but picked it up again for a book discussion group I belong to.
I don’t seem to be quite as enamored of it as some, but it IS a good story! The gist is of a father whose young daughter is murdered, and who ventures alone a year later to the place of her abduction. He is called there by a mysterious letter from “Papa;” Papa is the name his wife always used for God.
He arrives full of skepticism, and is met by three lovable figures: a big black woman (the Father), a plain looking Jewish man (Jesus), and a wispy, mysterious lady (the Holy Spirit). He talks with them, shares their food, does a bit of gardening with the Spirit, and in general works through his fury toward God for the loss of his daughter.
Together, over the weekend, they tackle the issue of good and evil and a few other stumbling blocks people may share toward God. He sees his dead daughter again, playing happily by a waterfall, and though she can’t see him through the void, she feels his presence and blows him a kiss. Finally grasping the love of God for him and for his daughter, he begins his journey back home. On the way, he suffers an auto accident and wakes up in the hospital, where he learns he was not gone two days after all, but had his accident on the day he left home.
So, it’s an escape into theodicy, plus a bit of unorthodox Trinity teaching, with a little postmodernism thrown in for spice (there’s a not-so-unexpected surprise in the end). If you think I’ve spoiled the book for you, I really haven’t—its value is not in the plot, but in the lively discussions on nearly every page about God.
While some reviewers feel the book is a bit sacrilegious in its bizarre portrayal of God, I found the character personalities helpful. It’s more feel-good than thought-provoking, though, as its theology is clearly supplemented by the author’s imagination. But then, whose theology isn’t?