Book Review: The Shack

by William P. Young, Review by Donna Totey


I must be one of the last people to read The Shack.  Written in 2007 by William Paul Young, this book quickly swept across the country and has on the New York Times Bestseller List for well over two years.  Since being published, over 10 million copies have been printed.  And now I see why.

The Shack is the story of Mackenzie Allen Phillip, better known as Mac, and the process he went through after the abduction and murder of his youngest daughter, Missy.  Unable to successfully deal with her death, years later Mac is still going through what he calls, “The Great Sadness” which penetrates his daily life.  One day, he receives a mysterious note from “Papa” that invites to the shack.  The same shack where evidence of Missy’s murder was found.  Mac is at first horrified, but then considers the offer and eventually makes plans to spend a weekend there.

After Mac arrives at the shack, it becomes transformed before his eyes, apparently due to the presence of “Papa,” an outgoing African-American woman, who also happens to be God.  Now stay with me…God appears to Mac in this form because this is apparently how Mac needs to see Him.  Along with Papa are a flannel-wearing Jesus and a small woman named Sarayu, who is the Holy Spirit.

I know it all sounds weird…it did to me, too.  But what follows is actually very beautiful.  Mac learns how to really have relationship with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Because of his weekend with them, the barriers that Mac always held up between himself and God are torn down.  The three also help him to heal and cope with Missy’s death, bringing Mac closure and peace.  Mac learns to put his trust in God fully and completely, even to the point of choosing to forgive Missy’s killer.

I think what has attracted millions of people to this book is the very real, very personal relationship Mac has with Papa, Jesus & Sarayu.  Papa delights in Mac, whom she is “especially fond of.” What I see is that God isn’t someone who is ethereal and far away.  Or someone who is sitting on a giant throne, ready to squash us if we make the wrong move. God is someone who we can sit at the table and enjoy a meal with.  Jesus is someone we can lay on the grass with and look at the clouds with.  The Holy Spirit is someone we can go fishing with.  We can be honest with God and share our most personal thoughts with Him.  And He’s someone who cares so much about each one of us.  I love how God’s delight in us is shown in such a real way in The Shack.  Mac, like many of us, didn’t have a good relationship with his earthly father and needed to see what a loving Father was like.

I know The Shack has been controversial, due in part to the portrayal of God as a woman.  To me, this is explained sufficiently in the book.  But this book is meant to be taken allegorically, not literally.  If you can read it in that spirit, I think you’ll find a few life-changing lessons in The Shack.

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  1. KCIS-Webmaster posted on 12/08/2011 01:24 PM
    Laurie Gustafson posted on Mar. 28, 2011:
    I read this book and it was very life changing. The relationship with God, that we were all created to have. no one ever said this book was the Bible. So if you read in the lens of God’s personality longing to be close to us, longing to have a real relationship with Him and break our religious spirit it will change your life. Don’t read through the lens of it being right or wrong, literally correct but as an experience waiting to be had with the living God and I’m sure you’ll find more of God throughout this book.
  2. KCIS-Webmaster posted on 12/08/2011 01:24 PM This comment was edited by a moderator at 09:59 AM on 12/29/2011
    Michelle posted on April 19th, 2011:
    That was a great review of this book. Very well said. I’ve read it and right after I finished the book, I made my husband read it so we could talk about it. He liked it as much as I did and we reference it often. When I think about heaven and about my relationship with God this book comes to mind. I agree that you can’t take it literally at all, but if you read it with an open mind and ask God to show you more of Him through this book, then I think you gain a totally different perspective on how much He loves us and how He is with us even through tragedy. It personally helped me to see my relationship with God more tangibly. I loved it.
  3. KCIS-Webmaster posted on 12/08/2011 01:25 PM
    Jay Holmgren posted on May 2, 2011:
    Dear Christians ;

    Before jumping into this book, and treating it as some sort of truth please read, The Shack: Helpful or Heretical?
    A Critical Review by Norman L. Geisler and Bill Roach.

    In His Love, Jay.
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