The Shack (By William Paul Young) begins with Mack Phillips, four years after the death of his beloved daughter, Missy. Mack’s wife, son and daughter are all still struggling with Missy’s tragic murder, but Mack is still deeply wounded by what he calls The Great Sadness, and not coping very well at all.
Missy was killed after being abducted from a camping trip… her body was never recovered, but her blood stained clothes were found in a shack not far from where her family was camping.
That’s when he receives a mysterious note inviting him to The Shack for a weekend, signed by “Papa,” his wife’s name for God. Not sure if he is being taunted by Missy’s murderer, he sets out for The Shack ready to fight … but he finds something much more different.
When he arrives, The Shack is transformed into a beautiful cottage by a lake. No longer run-down and stained with Missy’s blood, Mack walks in to the smell of food and warmth. There, he meets Papa, Jesus and Sarayu (the Holy Spirit). Here, Mack is encouraged to confront his own fears and The Great Sadness.
He spends the weekend in the comfort of these individuals and learns that conventional religious teachings rarely hold up the truth of God’s wisdom and compassion, Jesus’ sacrifice and how the Holy Spirit means that we are literally never alone in the world.
Simply put, this book changed my life. The story behind the book is very heartfelt and very sad, but it challenges so much of what I thought religion to be for most of my life. Young is brilliant. He narrates the book as Mack’s friend, and even shows up in the story in third person.
While the characters of God (aka “Papa”), Jesus and Sarayu are almost comical at times, it’s very much a challenge to how we visualize the Holy Trinity in our lives. I had a discussion with some girlfriends who had a problem with Papa being a big, black woman, but the essence of that is what the whole book is challenging: appearances and expectations aren’t always what they seem. The idea of God being a big black woman parallels the ideas that our religious conceptions might not always be right. It’s beautifully done.
As long as a reader reads this with an open mind, they will close this book with a better understanding of “The Big Picture.” An appreciation as to why God doesn’t intervene when bad things happen, and that God is always there through the good, the bad and the ugly, even when you don’t want “Him” to be.
My favorite part is the scene where Mack is in the cave and gets to see Missy with his other kids. It is such a complete tear-jerker, that you will need the tissues when you begin reading it.
You NEED to read this one. It is a wise, well-thought out sermon, and once you’ve read it, you’ll never feel alone again. Even if you’re not particularly religious, it still has an amazing message.
A line that I loved:
"Don't ever discount the wonder of your tears. They can be healing waters and a stream of joy. Sometimes they are the best words the heart can speak." ~ Papa
Next Review: Vanishing Acts (another Jodi book!)
PS. A HUGE thank you to Carly for our awesome new background. She's amazing!