Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Shack - a Spiritual Journey (A Book Review)

The Shack
by: William P. Young

I learned about this book on Twitter, of all places. This is surprising mainly because of the amount of religious people I am surrounded with; I am surprised it was never recommended before.

I watched “Mskutcher” aka Demi Moore – talk about her journey through the book on Twitter, and it intrigued me to read it. On that note, I need to mention that anyone who has had a loss of someone close to them, and even specifically if they were murdered – this is going to be difficult however incredibly helpful and healing in the long run.

This book has 252 pages. Compared to other books I read, this is considered “short”. So I thought – cool, I will read this in 2-3 days easily. 3 weeks later, I am finally done with it. Did it take so long because it was boring? Was it drawn out? NO, the opposite, it was almost too much for me to handle at times. I had to take it in pieces and take breaks when things got “too real”. That’s how intense this book is.

The main character of the book is Mack. A man who has had a terrible loss and, like many of us, questions his faith and many things about his life, because of this loss. I find Mack’s feelings, thoughts and responses to be very typical to the every day person’s struggle. Never was there a question unanswered, that if I were in his position, I would want the answer to.

About 1/3 of the way through the book, I had a major red flag. The word Jesus, then the Trinity. I almost quit. Then I remember Demi (I love how that sounds like we chat regularly) talked about how she didn’t have a specific Faith she followed, but was spiritual, and that this book didn’t intrude on that.

So I kept going. It immediately took a different turn. Young has the amazing ability to keep you comfortable while talking about a usually taboo subject. His way of making your heart HURT for Mack and his family in one moment, shed tears over the horrifying circumstances of their loss and then laugh and smiles at the feelings of love and family Mack learns in the Shack.

Young touches on many Christian topics that you may or may not agree with, however its done in a way that its easily accepted and you find yourself caring more about the well being of the character, that you get the main idea being about growth rather than it being preachy.

Towards the end of the book I had to take a break. I couldn’t tell where it was all leading to, however I did know it was going to be hard for me to handle. I lost my only brother less than 2 years ago, very tragically and suddenly – so this book helped me deal with loss and my anger with God. I went into it thinking it would be a good read and it became much more than that. I wasn’t quite ready for what William Young had for me at the end of this journey.

After about a week, I couldn’t stand it, and had to find out how Mack’s spiritual journey ended. I knew it would be hard. I bawled. It was so real but at the same time, so Unreal. Do I believe this is a FACTUAL book? Do I think this really HAPPENED to someone? I realized at the end, that didn’t matter.

April 20st until May 2nd marks a religious holiday for me, The Festival of Ridvan. It commemorates the commencement of my Faith and signifies renewal, the birth of a new Light and the celebration of all things made new. This was a perfect time to finish this book, as it helped bring me out of the darkness of Winter. Spring and Ridvan has brought new growth, new maturity and new light.

Be firm in your Faith (or lack of) and don’t ever feel as though this book is trying to preach to you. If you are firm in your Faith or belief and see it as a story of a way to deal with a horrible adversity and a way to find God during a tragedy – it’s a wonderful 252 page read…

Rating: **** (better than the average thriller movie)

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  1. It's interesting reading your thoughts on this book! My book club read this not long ago and I believe it was selected without the knowledge that this was "Christian literature." The overall assessment was that the book was good for those already secure in or studying the Christian faith but probably not a read that would interest those not of that faith. I think this was concluded because it seemed to delve so deeply into theological aspects of the Christian faith (not because it felt preachy). No one in the group, I think, accounted for those who have experienced a great or tragic loss. So, I appreciate your perspective that this is a book that really does have something to offer those not of the Christian faith.

    I'm not sure everyone would be able to get beyond the "red flags" you mention, though. Actually, interestingly enough, though most of the readers in my book club are of the Christian persuasion, many found the information to be more than they felt they wanted to swallow in a work of fiction. I, personally, likened the book to a parable which by nature illustrate a spiritual concept without telling people what to think. Regardless, there is certainly a degree of both openness and security that is required to read or study works written outside of or opposing one's own faith or beliefs. I have much respect for those that are spiritual seekers.

  2. This book moved me to tears on more than one occasion. Having lost my wife to diabetic complications a little more than seven months before this post, I felt much of Mack's pain as he approached the shack and recounted his emotions regarding his loss.

    I do NOT consider Jesus or the Trinity a "taboo" subject. Those subjects only offend those who are off-the-deep-end politically correct -- or worse. Perhaps that's the case in Saudi Arabia or Yemen, but not here in the States... at least not yet. However, I do agree that the author approached the subject of the Judeo-Christian God in a very atypical way, perhaps in a way Jesus Himself would have approached it, if He were walking the Earth today. I can see how his presentation would have an appeal to the unbeliever... and perhaps that was the Divine purpose behind the book.

    Now all I can think of is will there be a movie and if so, when?

  3. I love this book so much, i am almost done with it for the third time and i got permission to use it for my 6 week project in Honors English 9. I really hope that my teacher will let some of us present it in front of the class so that more people will find out about the book.

    before i read it the first time i was majorly blaming god for different things that had happened to me and it actually helped me understand a lot about god and why different things happen or in my case why they don't.

  4. I too am about to finish the book for the 3rd time. I just find so much truth in this book, and the reality is that each of us on this planet crave for that friendship that mack finds in his walks across the lake with Jesus. And we alow ourselfs and our selfish ways get in the way of it. I pray they turn this into a movie because it needs to spread across this world like a wild fire so the lost can see that someone does love them! God Bless!

  5. I loved this book too. I read it for a book club and as such, borrowed it but I plan to buy it and read it again. I moved me. I have been a Catholic Christian all my life and recently have been more than challenged by the stuff of margins around my faith (the hierarchy, the lack of respect women get, the focus on rules and lack of devotion to helping the poor).. While I know this is only fiction I revelled in the parallels the views were to my own of a loving, both male and female God. I've read some Christian critics of the book.. who cares if it was Jesus who was nailed to the cross not God? The book is only representing that God felt the pain of Jesus. They are too hung up and not open to seeing who God really is. I'm discovering this every day without the help of my church, unfortunately. I wish that my church did provide me with a space for my spirituality but this is less and less so..

  6. I have read The Shack several times. I have related to Mack's pain in that my son is autistic. I find the book very rich in thought and questions. I would suggest going to the Bible to compare the theology of Mr. Young as it is intwined in The Shack's story. What does the Bible say about the personality of God, Jesus and Holy Spirit? How do the three fit together, as the trinity? Does God cause pain? Does he use Pain? How doe we fit into all of this? May you find mind expansion and comfort as you discuss and compare and come to your own conclusions. cyl

  7. 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