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Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Reader's Discussion of The Shack

I recently started reading two novels at the same time. One was The Kite Runner which was exquisitely written, moving and entertaining. A masterpiece in my eyes. Can you tell I loved it? The other was a sleeper hit, William P Young's The Shack.

This book has been on the NYT best-seller list (hitting number one) for over a year now. I was curious about the hype. Even after reading the first chapters, I still am.

This controversial book has really spoken to some good Christian folks whose opinion I trust, while others had a knee-jerk reaction to it, refusing to continue reading it, often giving the reason of not feeling comfortable with the author "putting words in God's mouth".

Others still have said they didn't think the writing knocked their socks off but the story was great. And many people I know read the book and are neither moved nor repulsed, but leave it shaking their heads not quite getting what the fuss is about.

If you've read The Shack, what's your opinion? If you loved it, tell us why. If you didn't we'd love your reasons as well. We love talking books!


  1. My review is here, Gina:

    (I do think it helps to know the background of why this "story" was written--at least to "tolerate" or "understand" the reasons behind some of the concepts.)

  2. You've held out longer than me. I read it a year ago when Paul Young was scheduled to talk at our church, and I really enjoyed it. My review is here.

  3. I actually connected with the main character best when I was learning what had happened to his family and how they all reacted to it. The portion taking place at the shack was essentially, "injected fantasy."
    My favorite part of the "fantasy" was Sarayu - a very cool way to think about the Holy Spirit.
    I do, however, think the theology shown in the story is the result of several leaps I'm not willing to take. The word pictures are great - especially for those who don't know the Lord personally. I think it's a better book for the unbeliever - and I think that's why it has been a runaway success.
    Don't even get me started on The Kite Runner - LOVED IT!!!!!

  4. I read The Shack going on two years ago. Knowing very little then about the difference between self-pubbed and traditionally published books, I had no prejudices going in. I had heard some of the buzz, but my sister thought it worth the read, so I checked it out.
    I am not a fan of reading about graphic or disturbing crimes to children, and that part was very hard for me to stomach. What I liked most was the "Mammy" Father-God. Many people, including myself, have a hang-up with their own fathers, and thinking of God as a father can be complicated for us. Seeing "Him" in a different way helped get past my hang-ups, and though I was a Christian going in, I could also connect in a deeper way to this approachable repackaging. The discussions the main character had with the trinity were moving and profound, and left me desiring to grow closer and trust our God deeper.
    I think Young had evangelism in mind when he wrote this, and he was successful in getting God back into the discussions of a million households. The author deserves our support as Christians for that alone, if not our jaw-dropped awe at his marketing campaign.
    I did not regret reading it, nor would I hesitate to recommend it to others.

    thanks for this discussion. ; )

  5. Thanks for the insight everyone. I'd agree that getting God being discussed in millions of households is definitely a good thing.

  6. A waste of my time. It was well written from a technical point of view but failed to keep my attention. I was actually trying to finish it but, when the trinity, or whatever it was, was introduced, I was immediately turned off. Not sure how it 'blew the door off my soul', a quote from someone famous who stomached this thing said, really is applicable or not but, it didn't come close. He glossed over the part about the child's kidnapping and death. I am a parent and cannot imagine going through that. I would imagine that I would not gloss over that for one moment and not even sure I'd ever climb out of it, to be quite honest. I take nothing away from his writing skills and I am hardly the critic and least of all, I hope my material is well recieved and not trashed but, having said all that, I would hardly recommend this book.

  7. Wow, just read one of the reader comments who did not like The Shack. I am sorry she did not like it.
    As a reader who has had a sister that was kidnapped (later found) and a father who was absent, I think every one should read this book.

    I have been a Christian for about 26 years and when I read The Shack I felt as if I had finally found an author that was not afraid to tackle what the trinity could do to relate to us. The Lord has no limits and that is one of the points of the book. We are the ones that put God in the box. He wants us to just love and trust Him, give Him control, and He can reveal Himself to each one of us as He sees fit. As each of us is able to handle.
    God bless Mr. Young for stepping out in faith.

  8. I really appreciate everyone's insight. Your comments helped me better understand the strong reactions to this book. It seems that not everyone will love or has loved it, but that many, many people were strongly affected by it. Thanks for taking the time to indulge me everyone. I'm on to read A Prayer for Owen Meany and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I'll be playing catch up for the rest of my life. If only I'd put the Stephen King novels down in my youth and picked up a few classics...

  9. I read THE SHACK last year because of all the hype (shows you the value of good marketing). At the time, positive reviews outnumbered any negative ones I'd heard and I went into the story expecting to like it. I'd lost a daughter myself so the early chapters kept me interested and empathizing. About page 80 reality took a sudden side trip into fantasy and didn't return until the final chapter. I just couldn't suspend my belief long enough to make the necessary jumps. I felt as if the middle section was a totally different book. It contained an interesting analogy but too much fanciful philosophizing. I'm not one to quit reading so I persevered, hoping the ending would redeem the middle. But the last chapter was a hasty wrap-up that didn't do justice to everything that had been introduced in the first four chapters and I was very disappointed.

    So no, I didn't love it. There's nothing wrong with the writing but not much of a story to recommend.

  10. I read the book but didn't like it. To me it felt too . . . contrived. More about a message than a story. There were some moving moments when the main character was dealing with the loss of his daughter, but overall I just never got "into" the story enough to forget that I was reading a book. I forced myself to finish it, but did not enjoy the reading of it.

  11. Paul Young found his corner of the marker with The Shack and has moved many. [It's been over a year since I read it so my memory is not fresh.] The Shack had a lot of alagorical parts used to describe the Trinity in a way made sense to me and touched my heart, and in a way changed my view of the Trinity and how each part works together. That I loved! I did have a read flag when he wrote of the acceptance of other faiths, which could mislead some into thinking that they're are "other ways" to God. Yet, he ended with Jesus being only The Way. I figured that Young meant that it didn't matter what faith you "came from", Jesus will accept ANY person who believes in Him as The Savior. BUT that confusion is what has kept me from recommending it to unbelievers.

    I found that the book could've been edited better, but it is self-pubbed. And that speaks for itself. I didn't like the ending, as it made his experience with God a dream...God is NO dream.

    But kuddos to Young for his boldness in sharing the heartache and redemption of tragedy. That was worther reading and remembering to me.

  12. I, too, read it partly because of the hype. Hearing Christian's that I respect making statements like, "It changed my life!!" Made me curious.

    I won't say it radically changed my life, but it did give me food for thought. For me seeing the interaction of the trinity in a new light was good. Though thinking "God the Father" would call Jesus "butter fingers" for dropping a bowl was a little over the top for me. But I had always thought of the Trinity as "God the Father" at the top of the triangle and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit equals at the bottom of the triangle. This book did change my perspective on that.

    Also, seeing God the Father as mothering, though a new concept I felt like was an accurate one.

    A good story, thought provoking, maybe not life changing.

  13. I have to say that "The Shack" by William P. Young was a very thought provoking read.

    After reading the book, I was left pondering several things about it – which is a true testament to the book's worth. I had several questions on the validity of some of the descriptions of God but I had to humbly admit that there may be no answers this side of heaven for how God presents Himself to each individual.

    I posted a more in-depth review of this book on my own blog



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