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The Shack 

by William P. Young


This story begins with one of a parent's worst nightmares, the abduction of his/her child. Unfortunately, the abduction of Mackenzie "Mack" Allen Phillips' daughter Missy in the Oregon wilderness early in "The Shack" lacks punch and drama because it's badly lost in a tediously narrated account of a camping trip filled with mundane detail and awkward pacing.


However, readers who can plough through this badly handled material will be rewarded many times over by the time Mack makes his pilgrimage to the isolated cabin where his daughter was murdered. Here he finds waiting for him the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. What a joyous and inventive story "The Shack" becomes as the dialogues begin. Those who want to argue theology are having their say about this, suggesting that the understandable, sensible ideas are in fact dangerous, luring readers into false doctrines and lives of error.


Nonsense! "The Shack" is fiction and readers are not easily brainwashed. I found this material so compelling, that I found myself jealous that I know of no mountain cabin where I can have such experiences first hand. This is, when all is said and done, a powerful book with a few storytelling flaws most readers will easily forgive.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Originally posted at; reprinted with permission from the author.




There is a fair bit of controversy in the Christian community about the nature of the things expressed (or is it "taught"?) in William Paul Young's novel, The Shack. It sort of reminds me of the kinds of things people said about some of Frank Peretti's novels way back in the day — how they supposedly expressed a dangerous sort of theology if taken too literally, and things like that. I have never quite understood that sort of thinking. After all, these books are novels, and the genre necessarily means they are not to be taken literally. They are fictional tales, and whatever "theology" is expressed is done so in something of a veiled manner. It is what some people have called "lying to tell the truth." You make up a story to try to uncover truths... but that doesn't mean the stories are meant to be taken literally or to depict in concrete terms how things work in our day in, day out lives. Rather, they are pictures. Reflections. Shadows. Imperfect? Yes. But perhaps more capable of expression because of their imperfections.


So, what does this novel have to offer, then? Well, first of all, it is a good read. The story and dialogue are engaging, and the characters are the sort you will start to care about. The characters move about in situations that we know from the very beginning are going to be uncomfortable, but I actually found that the narrative never actually gets to be too stomach-turning (contrary to what I had been told by 2 readers who had recommended the book to me). In fact, there is nothing in the book that is as gruesome or explicit as a weekly episode of, say, Law & Order or CSI. The book is about a difficult topic, but it is not depicted in an especially graphic way. If anything, I would say it treads quite lightly on the subject of the horrors that are all too real in today's society, giving those hard realities a rather gentle treatment.


That gentleness, however, is accompanied by a tough, critical look at our responses to the horrors. In some ways, I am tempted to say the treatment is somewhat too simple. I am quite sure that almost any unbeliever who reads the novel would say so. But that seems to me to be the point — this isn't a book for unbelievers, but for believers. It is aimed at a very specific market, being sold as fiction meant for Christian readers. It deals with hard realities from a point of someone struggling with his faith, not from the perspective of one who has already rejected faith. And when read from that faith-in-the-face-of-the-terrible perspective, there is nothing gentle about the book. It aims its attacks (if there are any) squarely at what has been termed elsewhere "easy believism," and in dialogue with this very real problem in our communities of faith, I think it has a good deal to say that is worth listening to and pondering over. The closest corollary that comes to mind in the Bible is the book of Job. Thematically, the two are connected, and reading The Shack has made me determined to open up and read that ancient story of suffering yet again.


I won't try to defend the theology that some have criticized in the novel. Instead, I would suggest that it not be read as a theology book at all. It is a struggle, a questioning of "where is God when all around is evil?" But the answers aren't put together from some textbook more appropriate in a systematic theology class. They are offered in a series of pictures and conversations with God. (Again, much like the book of Job.) And while the persons used to stand in for God sometimes come a little too close to caricatures (certainly crossing the line of stereotypes), I think it works in this instance. It seems, in a way, to be an attempt at creating a sort of mythopoeic piece, and in mythopoeia, stereotypes are forgiven, if they leave the realm of mere stereotype and move toward a recognizable archetype. I'm not sure that the characters in The Shack make that journey successfully, but they are generally sympathetic enough to pull the reader effectively into the narrative.



By Shelly Bryant © 2009






From "THE SHACK by William P. Young"

A few months ago I was urged to read the book The Shack by William P. Young. It is of the theological fiction genre, so it is right up my alley. I got a copy of the book and placed it in my To Be Read stack. I picked it up last week and finished it in only a few days. It was a compelling read! I strongly reccommend it for your enjoyment and deepening of faith.


Read more at Family Fun & Faith blog entry "The Shack"



From "THE SHACK - Book Review, The Bottom Line"

The Shack by William P. Young has become a phenomenon. This book -- originally written by Young for his kids -- was rejected by mainstream and Christian publishers alike. Young and friends started their own publishing house to produce it, and now there are more than one million copies in print and it has topped bestsellers charts for weeks.





From "Book Review: THE SHACK"

William P. Young’s The Shack is one of the most remarkable novels I’ve ever read. Creative, intriguing, and gutsy, this engaging work addresses the age-old question of why/how a loving God can allow suffering and evil to exist in this world.




Read more reviews at


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