June 9, 2008

The Shack by William Young

I finished this book last week, but have hesitated to write the review of it. I knew I had to, though, as that was kinda the point of reading it. I didn't read this book because I thought I'd enjoy it, but because I thought that I wouldn't. The problem with writing this review is that I know that there will be many that disagree with me. The Shack has recently gained a lot of positive buzz and this review will fly in the face of that.

Maybe it's unfair to go into a book thinking I won't like it. Maybe I didn't give the author a chance. While the Book Nook doesn't espouse any certain theology (nor do I think it should), I do, and must write this review from my viewpoint. My presuppositions being what they are, I read this book and it definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. I can't even begin to describe how this book made me feel (not that it is all about feelings, anyway). At several points what I was reading on the page would make my skin crawl. I hadn't anticipated having such a reaction to it. I thought that I could read it without being touched emotionally, but that's the blessing of a novel: it can affect our emotions. Now that you know a little bit about where I'm coming from, I'll move on to the review.

The Shack is William Young's first (and I believe only, at this point) published work. He writes fairly well for being a new author. The main character, Mack, suffers from what he calls The Great Sadness after the murder of his youngest daughter. One day, he receives a note in his mailbox from God asking him to join Him at the shack, the very place where his daughter was murdered. Mack goes, and encounters three characters who are supposed to be the Trinity: Papa (who for most of the book is manifested in an African-American woman who loves to cook and bake), Jesus the carpenter, and Sarayu (a spirit-like Asian woman who loves to garden). For most of the book, Mack is interacting with these characters.

I have lots of issues with how Young presents God. While he makes a few good points, there are many more that simply fly in the face of orthodox Christiainity. Not only that, but it is riddled with churchy cliches that simply got on my nerves. I won't get into all that here. If you would like to know more about some of these problems, here are two reviews that address them: here and here.

Young makes a good point (in the words of "Papa") that many people simply make God out to be an infinitely better version of themselves. While Young appears to be trying to counter this notion, that is exactly what the characters of Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu come across as. Their conversations with each other seem merely to reflect an ideal family, not the Trinity itself.

I don't recommend this book. If you want to know more about God and have life-altering encounters with Him, read the Bible. If you want to learn more about Christianity, there are dozens of books I could recommend, but this would not be one of them. After all, not all that glitters is gold.


  1. Yikes. It sounds like Mitch Albom. Puke!

  2. My Dad read it and hated it. He said his core problem with the book is that it presents the idea that Christ came to save us from our pain, rather than our sins. Huge difference.

    Dad's post is over hereif you care to read it.

  3. Okay, I dunno why so many people have read this book. I read the reviews you linked too, and most of the book sounds so cliche! Why would God be called "Papa" yet be portrayed by an African-American woman?

    Thanks for the warning, though I don't think I'd go for this book anyways.

  4. Thanks. I'd heard a lot of recommendations for this one and am glad I can stay away from it.

  5. yep everbody hit this on right on, i almost finished it, well i did finished it to see what he brought back after the visit, but skipped a lot of the theology


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