Book review: The Shack

shackIn January when I made my reading list for the year, I very eagerly included The Shack, by William P. Young. I’d heard quite an extreme variety of reviews on the book and all I knew was that it seemed everyone but me had read it– and I wanted to see what the stir was all about!

In this book, the main character, Mack, is led to the shack where his daughter was brutally murdered in order to meet with God and receive restoration and healing. The bulk of the book records his conversations and interactions with Papa (God), Jesus, and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit).

Overall, I have to admit, I was disappointed. There were moments of great encouragement in it and several sentences that I whole-heartedly agreed with and felt built-up by, but in general I felt that the book was drawn out, lacking character interest, and unsatisfactory in answering several of the theological issues the author brought up. (It is my perception that theological discussion was not the main point of the story, at which point I think Young would have been better off just leaving some of the questions he raised, particularly about the Trinity, out altogether.)

I do wonder if the book would have been better as a short story. There are some good nuggets in it; unfortunately, one has to wade through very poor plot build-up and many conversations that take far longer than necessary in order to find them. By far, of all the books I’ve read this year, this one slowed me down the most because I found I had to make myself keep plowing through it despite moments of true boredom.

I can’t help but feel that I wouldn’t ever find myself recommending this to a friend, especially one who might be struggling with the sorts of questions Young tries to answer in this book. If someone close to me is suffering, I would more likely recommend C. S. Lewis. If they are seeking to understand more of the attributes and character of God, I would tell them to read A. W. Tozer. If they want to know more of the Greatest Love Story ever told, I would encourage them to read the Gospel of John. And, certainly, if they had questions about the Triune God, I would actually tell them not to read The Shack, as I felt it could easily leave more questions and uncertainty than it resolved.

Despite many claims, I don’t think this book will last long beyond the immediate sphere of readers it has impacted. Like I said, it has some good points. In all, though, I don’t consider it a great book.


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  1. Wow…isn’t it funny how books and all forms of media for that matter effect all people differently?? I read The Shack and was soooo blessed!! One of the things that I enjoyed the most, was not the theology, but the visual. I love how the author was able to take the spiritual world, and paint it in such a way, that I felt like I got, for that short time, a glimpse into the unseen world that dwells around us. Another thing that was wonderful for me, was the way the Trinity walked Mack through healing. I am not the only person that experienced a great healing while reading this book. Lastly, the crumbling of religious boxes was refreshing. As much as the church tries to break free from limiting God, we still do it.
    I would recommend it, and have, with great success.

    Posted by Leah | April 18, 2009, 6:09 pm