In January, we chose The Shack as our book group choice. It was, perhaps, a predictable choice for a church-based book group, but in fact, it was the first ‘Christian’ or religious book we had read as a group.
I led the discussion, but it was mainly shaped by a visit to our church by the author just before Christmas. Personally, I found my reading of the book was affected when I found out the author’s history, so I’ll share it with you.
Wm Paul Young was born in Canada but raised in Dutch New Guinea, as his parents were missionaries. He was sexually abused by some of the people his parents preached to, and again in Canada, at boarding school. As an adult, he drifted, relying on his wife Kim’s strong faith. But at 38, he hit his lowest point. He had a three month affair with one of his wife’s best friends. He contemplated suicide, but instead, faced up to the pain and suffering he had caused his wife, and they worked through it. God met him at the lowest point, and Young’s relationship with Him was changed forever.
Young wrote The Shack to explain his faith to his children. He did not intend for it to be published, let alone for it to become a multi-million bestseller.
If you haven’t read it, The Shack is the story of Mack, whose youngest daughter is abducted and murdered. Mack blames himself for her death, and his family is gradually falling apart in the aftermath. His wife’s faith, however, remains strong.
Alone at home one day, Mack receives a note, inviting him to spend the weekend at the place where his daughter was murdered, the shack. Not knowing what he will find, Mack goes, and encounters God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Most of the plot happens in the first six chapters. The rest of the novel explores the nature of God, and how He wants to have a relationship with us. It sometimes makes for uncomfortable reading, and is sometimes mind-blowing.
In the book, you get the sense that Wm Paul Young has an amazing relationship with God, and I loved how he showed the natures of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In particular, the character of Sayaru, who personifies the Holy Spirit is inspired. I would honestly say that the book helped me to understand the concept of the Trinity better. I also loved the way that Young describes God as ‘respectful’ – not an adjective I have ever heard applied to God before. Yet in the novel, you get the sense that God respects Mack, because He loves him so much.
The writing, and the language isn’t the most sophisticated, in fact, it is a bit clumsy in it’s imagery at times, and this was the main issue the book group had. It is also very dialogue-heavy, and can feel ponderous at times.
But the faith and the love depicted in the book is real, and so I highly recommend it. My book group scored it 6/10.
You can watch the video of Wm Paul Young speaking at our church here. Click on the link to ‘Ivy Player.’