My review of The Shack is a complete breakaway from the core material of this site. It’s not fantasy, although some would believe that it is. It’s not young adult, although its appeal could be a generation spanner. It is fiction, although could very easily be based on anyone’s all-too-real truth. I was so completely moved by this book that I couldn’t not offer it a few lines of mention on this blog.
Let me preface this by saying I am not a religious person. However, I am a spiritual person and I do have what I believe is a very personal relationship with God. I grew up in a multi-religious household, and have always been open to all beliefs. What struck me about The Shack was that it’s just one man’s story and how he deals with the tragedy in his own life, yet at no point did I feel like I was being preached to. Many of the concepts discussed were ones that I agree with fundamentally.
In summary, The Shack is the story of a man, Mack, abused by his father as a child, who loses his 6 year old daughter during a camping trip to a serial killer. She is killed at a place nicknamed “the shack” in the wilderness. Two years later he receives a note in the mail from his long dead father to meet him at the shack, and it’s signed “Papa,” his wife’s name for God. Despite his obvious shock and fear, he goes to confront his past and to meet “God.” Written within the framework of a dream (he falls asleep and wakes up), Mack does indeed meet God, all three in fact – the father (Papa as a black woman), the son (Jesus as a Middle Eastern man) and the holy spirit (Sarayu as an Asian woman). For me to clinically attempt to explain what transpires next could not possibly do The Shack justice. Suffice it to say that Mack asks all the questions (all the ones you’ve ever had about love and loss and pain and forgiveness) and gets some pretty deep (and mind-mushing) answers.
The language was captivating and the imagery, rich. Despite the book being so full of thought-provoking content, the language helped me to move through it as I would any other book. I found myself crying, smiling, nodding my head, and connecting with this book in so many unexpected ways that I was surprised. It gets a hold of you and doesn’t let you go until the very end.
Here’s an excerpt that blew me away:
“Creation has been taken down a very different path than we desired. In your world the value of the individual is constantly weighed against the survival of the system, whether political, economic, social, or religious – any system actually. First one person, and then a few, and finally even many are easily sacrificed for the good and ongoing existence of that system. In one form or another this lies behind every struggle for power, every prejudice, every war, and every abuse of relationship. The ‘will to power and independence’ has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal. […] It is the human paradigm, […] it is like water to fish, so prevalent that it goes unseen and unquestioned. It is the matrix; a diabolical scheme in which you are hopelessly trapped even while completely unaware of its existence.” The Shack, page 123, 124.
I don’t usually read these types of books, outside of the occasional C.S. Lewis, but I am glad that I did. It is a difficult book to read but at the very least, you will walk away if anything with a greater understanding of spiritual perspective. The message is so broad that anyone can connect with some part of it. For me, funnily enough, that single line about The Matrix made me smile – it was the perfect metaphor.
At the end of the book, when Mack “awakens,” in a strange twist that gives everything a shivery sliver of truth, he is able to lead the FBI to where God had shown him where his daughter’s never-recovered body had been hidden by the killer. Um, freaky indeedy.
I would rate The Shack 5 stars.