The Shack – William Paul Young

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Original Synopsis – 

Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his “Great Sadness,” Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant The Shack wrestles with the timeless question, “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!

Having found the film marvellous I read the book and boy oh boy I quickly devoured it. The story pulled me in and kept me turning pages. It’s a stirring work of fiction. I’m not a religious person. Faith is a gift I have yet to receive. My mind tells me I will never understand God, and my heart tells me I’m not meant to. The book answers one burning question we have always asked God – Where were you when I was in so much pain? Why have you forsaken me ? 

The book’s central character, Mack, receives a strange note signed by “Papa” inviting him to come to “the shack.” Papa is the name Mack’s wife affectionately uses for God, and the shack is a deserted cabin located deep in the wilderness. This location is the site where immense tragedy invaded Mack’s life. While on a camping trip, his youngest daughter, Missy, was kidnapped and brutally killed inside the run-down shack. Mack doesn’t know if the mysterious note could be from the killer who is taunting him, or if it might also be a note from God. He goes to the shack to probe, and this is where most of the story takes place. It turns out the note is from God and Mack soon comes face to face with The Trinity. 

Each of the members of the Trinity appears in physical form. Papa, God whose actual name is Elousia (which is Greek for tenderness) appears in the form of a large, matronly African-American woman (though near the book’s end, because Mack requires a father figure, she turns into a pony-tailed, grey-haired man). Jesus is a young to middle-aged man of Middle-Eastern descent while the Holy Spirit is played by Sarayu (Sanskrit for air or wind), a small, delicate and eclectic woman of Asian descent. Mack also meets for a time with Sophia, who, like Lady Wisdom in Proverbs, is the personification of God’s wisdom. 

He spends a weekend with these three interesting characters trying to make sense of all the painful events of his life and hoping to get answers for the questions that have haunted him in the years following Missy’s death. 

The author portrays the Trinity in a unique way. But I found these to be not only interesting artistic choices, but actually enlightening in a spiritual sense as well. Why should we be concerned whether God is portrayed as male or female when, in fact, Scripture tells us that He is neither? God is Spirit and has no gender, even though the Bible often uses the pronoun “He” for God and describes him as a Father-figure the author explains this in the book.

The book is about healing and forgiving and loving, something I need. The book has calmed me down and I’m planning to do a book study on the same. Maybe I will find the peace I so desperately need within me. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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