The Shack is a book like no other. With almost 8 million copies in print, it has been on the New York Times Best Seller List for 64 consecutive weeks and has been the #1 bestseller on that list for 51 weeks. Film producers have expressed interest and there are websites dedicated to this book. The author’s website even has a “Missy Project” for suggestions of how readers can promote this book. The book draws reviewers who say it has restored their faith in God and changed their life. Another reader calls it significant, stirring, special. A professor of Spiritual Theology compares it to Pilgrim’s Progress. The author asks, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” He promises answers that will astound and transform you. Amazon ranks the book #14 in sales, #1 bestseller in Christian Literature, #1 in Literary Fiction, #3 in the Mystery category, etc. etc. The numbers change hourly, but you get the point. This is a smash hit, not unlike any of Dan Brown’s novels. Or, perhaps for some readers, The Shack is the answer to Dan Brown’s books. There are thousands of reader reviews of the book. Mine will be #3,613 or thereabouts.
When I review a book, I evaluate plot, character, setting, description, pace. I might talk about sentence structure, use of metaphors, the logic in the argument the writer puts forth. How well does he structure the novel? How well does he craft his sentences? Does the magic of his words allow us to suspend our disbelief? But how can I pit logic and skill against faith? How can I argue with lives that have been healed by Mr. Young’s writing? How can I put forth any argument of reason when faith has nothing to do with reason. I remember a couple telling me about their arguments. When she was upset about something, the husband would explain to her in rational detail why she need not be upset. (Don’t cry, it’s only a movie. Just because I don’t like your dress doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re pretty. I know I forgot to buy you flowers, but I do love you.) But the wife’s response, after the husband had tried to explain away her sadness in a logical fashion, was: Then why am I still crying?
Therefore, I have decided that the only reasonable review I can give this book is to say that all of us are right: the ones that are transformed by it and the ones that find it lacking. My Kindle book version of The Shack is filled with numerous notes along the margins. As these notes would fill several pages, I won’t reprint them all, but I have decided to give you a selection of them in lieu of a formal review. This way, you’ll be able to come along with me on this conflicting journey I was on while reading The Shack. Also, I haven’t a clue as to how many stars to give this book--zero to five, I suppose, depending on which part I’m reading. As book review sites force me to choose a rating, I’m going with 3. Here are my notes:
• Good metaphor!
• The fear of every parent!
• Cheesy, hokey, weird!
• Hugs again?
• Finally we come to Missy! What happened to her? Where is she?
• How come Jesus speaks like a school counselor?
• Mack is childish and churlish.
• Important statement, but not sure I understand.
• Why “eh”? Is God a Canadian?
• How many times has author used the word relationships?
• Very true!!!
• Christ is not a Christian? Of course not! Good point!!
• What does this mean?
• Good question!
• Why do these celestial creatures speak like shrinks?
• To “grow” our relationship? UGH! P-lease Mr. Young, lose these buzz words!
• Grammar error.
• Lots of smiling and hugging and Mack saying HUH? Exactly my reaction to this book—HUH?
• Well said and so true!
• Hugs again?
• Wouldn’t God know that a middle-aged male with lots of stress should not be eating bacon?
• But we humans find comfort in ritual and routine!
• Does God really say, I don’t “do” humiliation? No, no, no! Wirt Williams (my writing teacher) is turning in his grave!
• Beautiful and true. Well said!
• I could not forgive someone I have not met. Why doesn’t Mack ask to meet him?
• Why doesn’t Mack ask God a lot of questions? Is there life on other planets? Will Obama prevail with his health care plan? What are the winning Powerball numbers for the next drawing?
• Closure? Ugh again! Really, truly dislike this author’s choice of buzz words!!!
• I think I’m getting into these hugs. What’s wrong with me?
• Good question!
• Very nice!
• No, no, no! You take her home to her mother! And Kate needs to see this box too!
• Oh, no! Didn’t expect this!
• Cheating the reader by taking us on this long ride and in the end . . . (but that would be giving away THE END).
Is this the oddest review you’ve ever read? Well, this is the oddest book I’ve ever read. As you can see from my notes, I was on quite a roller-coaster ride of approval vs. disapproval. Part of the plot makes the story riveting, on-the-edge-of-your-seat reading, while the rest of it often just drags on. While I won’t tell you the ending, the “After Words” ends with a wonderful poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Now, there’s a fitting end to the story!