Last Friday, my son asked me if I had read a book which a lot of people were talking about. The book is The Shack (Los Angeles: Windblown Media, 2007). The author is William P. Young, a Canadian who was raised “among a stone-age tribe by his missionary parents in the highlands of what was New Guinea.”
I told my son that I had not heard anything about the book. So, he immediately took me to a bookstore to look for the book. On the front page of the book was this recommendation by Eugene Peterson: “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his. It’s that good!”
I was hooked! I have read Pilgrim’s Progress several times, both in Portuguese and in English and I love Bunyan’s book. So, without any hesitation, I bought The Shack.
I began reading the book on Saturday morning and by early evening I was almost finished. On Sunday, after I came back from church, I finished reading the book. The story was so good that I could have finished reading the book on Saturday night, but I had other things to do, so I had to postpone the reading until Sunday afternoon.
I probably would classify this book as a theological novel. I cannot say much about the content of the book because that would give the plot away. I will summarize the book without giving away the plot of the book.
The book is focused on the experience of Mackenzie Allen Phillips, the main character of the book. While on a camping trip with his children, an accident happened. Mack’s (this is how he is called throughout the book) son and daughter went canoeing. While in the middle of the lake, Mack’s daughter lost her balance and tipped the canoe. His son’s life vest got tangled in the canoe and he was about to drown. Leaving his younger daughter behind, Mack raced to rescue his son and his older daughter.
While he was trying to rescue his son, Mack’s younger daughter is kidnapped and eventually, as the authorities discovered later, murdered by a serial killer. Four years later, while still trying to recover from the murder of his daughter, Mack receives a mysterious note, asking him to return to the place where his daughter was killed. The disappearance and murder of Mack’s daughter is called The Great Sadness. The story, as told in the book, is Mack’s dealing with his Great Sadness.
The Shack is an abandoned cabin in the Oregon wilderness and the place where the body of Mack’s younger daughter was found and the place to which Mack returns to find redemption and forgiveness. There, in the place where he was touched by the discovery of his daughter’s body, where blood marked the place where her body was found, Mack had a personal encounter with God, an encounter that forced him to confront the demons that had been haunting him.
Mack’s encounter with God was life-changing. I cannot give more details because that would give part of the plot away. The theology behind The Shack is an attempt at dealing with the problem of evil in the world. The problem of theodicy has been addressed in different ways. Young’s attempt to deal with the issue of pain and suffering may be simplistic to some, but I believe that the book communicates a powerful message of the grace of God to troubled hearts.
I enjoyed the book and I am sure that those who want to discover God in the struggles of life will find a comforting message in The Shack.
You can buy the book at Amazon.com.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary