Book Review: The Shack

I made it eighty percent through this book and was about to give up on it completely when it was voted as our first book to read by our new book club. The good thing is I finished reading book. The bad thing is it was BRUTAL trying to get through this book. Two of my friends have pushed this book on me claiming how it has changed their perspective on life so significantly. Sadly, I just did not share the same sentiment.

The premise of The Shack involves Mack, the protagonist, whose four year old daughter, Missy was abducted. It seems as she was murdered but her body was never found. Four years later, he gets a note signed by God, inviting him to come back to the shack where the kidnapping occurred. Premise of the book sounds interesting enough. I often have a hard time suspending disbelief when it comes to fantasy. So picturing a world where you can speak to Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit personified was asking a lot from me. It took a lot to focus on all the drawn out dialogue between Mack and the Trinity but add Jesus walking on water and seeing people as fractals made it even more difficult to focus.

That said, here are two notions that I appreciated from The Shack:

1. Forgiveness does not entail having a relationship. I have a hard time forgiving sometimes because I assume that means I’d need to rejuvenate some kind of friendship with those I’m forgiving. Young suggests that forgiving does not mean you have to have a relationship. It simply means you release “the hand you have wrapped around their throat.”

2. We’re all children of God. Even the assholes/bad people.
I have a personal relationship with God. I couldn’t care less about religion as I just see it as man’s interpretation. Who knows if you really go to hell if you’re gay. Who knows if you really go to hell if as a Muslim, you drink? I doubt God concerns himself with these matters but my point is, who knows? That said, I’ve never felt to question my God on why bad things happen to good people. If we are truly free to do as we please, then I get that bad things can happen. What I hadn’t grasp was even the bad people are loved. Papa (God as a black woman who loves to cook) mentioned she was especially fond of Missy’s kidnapper and Mack was stunned. She then asked him if one of his children did something despicable, would he still love him/her. That’s when for the first time, I appreciated that even the assholes of this world are loved and are considered “God’s children.” I must admit it was easier just to think of them as just assholes unworthy of anyone’s love.

What members of our book club had to say:

  • Liliana liked the book overall. She appreciated that Young depicted the Church as a man made institution that God could care less about.
  • Most of us thought the book was really hard to get through and were surprised to have heard so many claims of how this book has changed lives.
  • Selina brought up a good point that perhaps the majority of our club are not in a right stage of life to be really affected by the messages of this book.

Thoughts about our first book club meeting:

I appreciated that everyone read the book and had something to contribute to the conversation. We did not have any structured discussions question which was something a few members have said they did not want. I was also pleased that everyone was able to share their religious and spiritual perspective without encroaching on the beliefs of other members. I had a great time listening and discussing and am looking forward to next month’s meeting.

Some quotables:

“The truth is, Mack, the real reason you did not tell Nan was not because you were trying to save her from pain. The real reason is that you were afraid of having to deal with the emotions you might encounter, both from her and in yourself. Emotions scare you, Mack. You lied to protect yourself, not her!”

“Forgiveness is not about forgetting, Mack. It is about letting go of another person’s throat.”

“Forgiveness does not create a relationship. Unless people speak the truth about what they have done and change their mind and behavior, a relationship of trust is not possible. When you forgive someone you certainly release them from judgement, but without true change, no real relationship can be established.”