12 July 2009

Review: The Shack

The Shack The Shack by William P. Young

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars

I hadn't heard of this book until I read a review by a girl in my high school alma mater's newsletter. The review was glowing, and I told my mom (editor of the newsletter) so. She sent me a copy, and after that I heard about The Shack at church - the associate pastor recommended it from the pulpit, although it was just a passing reference. I knew from the high schooler's review what it was about, and I knew from my mom that it probably wasn't as good as advertised. Right-o.

Basically this book is one man's view on religion. And it's FICTION. It's written in a way to suggest that it is truth, but there are lots of holes in the story if you try to take it as fact, even without a strong theological background (which I clearly do not have).

At the end of the book is a section encouraging readers to recommend the book, pass along the copy and post a review online. There are lots of ideas for people to spread the message of the book (and help the book sell more copies and eventually be made into a movie). They also say "don't give away the plot." Uh, there really isn't much of a story or plot. It's one guy, he faces tragedy and then gets to physically see God to overcome his loss and sadness. I don't think that gives anything away, but just in case I checked "contains spoilers" in Good Reads.

So God in three persons is represented and sort of understandable, and the father-figure God is a black woman. No problem there EXCEPT when the author gives her black mammy dialogue in one paragraph to be followed by a PhD-level explanation of life with $10 words in the next. Yes, God can be all things, even stereotypical things, but what purpose does it serve in this book (besides annoying the crap out of me)?

In chapter 9, there's a line (spoken by the Holy Spirit character) that I dog-eared: "A child is protected because she is loved, not because she has a right to be protected." The author then delves into an argument about "rights," whereas my mind went directly to the first part - if love = protection, why do bad things happen? This question is part of the main thrust of the book, but I felt like this was a missed opportunity, or it just irked me. I don't know.

I also got bogged down by the expectations and responsibilities section at the end. It's almost as if the author is saying - you can be as bad as you want and there are no consequences. And maybe there aren't - that's a good message and I love it - nothing can separate us from God or his love, even our sin ... no matter how large. But I didn't find resolution in the book about what it takes to fulfill our part of a relationship with God. It's almost as if we don't have to do anything - everyone goes to heaven and to be with God, they just have a miserable time of it down here if they aren't actively in fellowship with him. And if THAT'S the point of this book, what difference does it make how we live?

I guess I would recommend it if just to get your brain thinking about some of these issues, even if the writing is a little too detailed in some parts and fantastical in others.

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