Book Review: The Shack by William P. Young

Book Review by Donna Totey

I must be one of the last people to read The Shack.  Written in 2007 by William Paul Young, this book quickly swept across the country and has on the New York Times Bestseller List for well over two years.  Since being published, over 10 million copies have been printed.  And now I see why.

The Shack is the story of Mackenzie Allen Phillip, better known as Mac, and the process he went through after the abduction and murder of his youngest daughter, Missy.  Unable to successfully deal with her death, years later Mac is still going through what he calls, “The Great Sadness” which penetrates his daily life.  One day, he receives a mysterious note from “Papa” that invites to the shack.  The same shack where evidence of Missy’s murder was found.  Mac is at first horrified, but then considers the offer and eventually makes plans to spend a weekend there.

After Mac arrives at the shack, it becomes transformed before his eyes, apparently due to the presence of “Papa,” an outgoing African-American woman, who also happens to be God.  Now stay with me…God appears to Mac in this form because this is apparently how Mac needs to see Him.  Along with Papa are a flannel-wearing Jesus and a small woman named Sarayu, who is the Holy Spirit.

I know it all sounds weird…it did to me, too.  But what follows is actually very beautiful.  Mac learns how to really have relationship with God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Because of his weekend with them, the barriers that Mac always held up between himself and God are torn down.  The three also help him to heal and cope with Missy’s death, bringing Mac closure and peace.  Mac learns to put his trust in God fully and completely, even to the point of choosing to forgive Missy’s killer.

I think what has attracted millions of people to this book is the very real, very personal relationship Mac has with Papa, Jesus & Sarayu.  Papa delights in Mac, whom she is “especially fond of.” What I see is that God isn’t someone who is ethereal and far away.  Or someone who is sitting on a giant throne, ready to squash us if we make the wrong move. God is someone who we can sit at the table and enjoy a meal with.  Jesus is someone we can lay on the grass with and look at the clouds with.  The Holy Spirit is someone we can go fishing with.  We can be honest with God and share our most personal thoughts with Him.  And He’s someone who cares so much about each one of us.  I love how God’s delight in us is shown in such a real way in The Shack.  Mac, like many of us, didn’t have a good relationship with his earthly father and needed to see what a loving Father was like.

I know The Shack has been controversial, due in part to the portrayal of God as a woman.  To me, this is explained sufficiently in the book.  But this book is meant to be taken allegorically, not literally.  If you can read it in that spirit, I think you’ll find a few life-changing lessons in The Shack.


9 Responses to “Book Review: The Shack by William P. Young”

  1. Laurie Gustafson Says:

    I read this book and it was very life changing. The relationship with God, that we were all created to have. no one ever said this book was the Bible. So if you read in the lens of God’s personality longing to be close to us, longing to have a real relationship with Him and break our religious spirit it will change your life. Don’t read through the lens of it being right or wrong, literally correct but as an experience waiting to be had with the living God and I’m sure you’ll find more of God throughout this book.

  2. Michelle Traudt Says:

    That was a great review of this book. Very well said. I’ve read it and right after I finished the book, I made my husband read it so we could talk about it. He liked it as much as I did and we reference it often. When I think about heaven and about my relationship with God this book comes to mind. I agree that you can’t take it literally at all, but if you read it with an open mind and ask God to show you more of Him through this book, then I think you gain a totally different perspective on how much He loves us and how He is with us even through tragedy. It personally helped me to see my relationship with God more tangibly. I loved it.

  3. Jay Holmgren Says:

    Dear Christians ;

    Before jumping into this book, and treating it as some sort of truth please read, The Shack: Helpful or Heretical?
    A Critical Review by Norman L. Geisler and Bill Roach.

    In His Love, Jay.

  4. Laurie Says:

    Don’t read a review of the book and then decide if you’re going to read it. Read yourself and take it for what it is. William P Young is not claiming this book to be spiritual truth. He never said this is the bible. But it however does talk about God being Spirit; neither male nor female, portayed as a women in the book to break religious views and that God is about relationship. Never once did he say “God is a woman.” It said that God is Spirit neither male nor female. “For me to appear to you as a woman is because I love you.” You can learn great things from this book.

    The different appearances of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were used to help Mack break his religious conditioning.

    Life takes a lot of time and a lot of relationship.

    When all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of God.

    Pain has a way of clipping our wings, so we can’t fly. After awhile we forget we were ever created to fly.

    God is light and God is good. Removing ourselves from God will plunge us into darkness. Declaring independence will result in evil because apart from God, you can only draw on yourself. That is death, because you have separated yourself from God, from Life.

    We tend to live either in the past or the future; dwelling on the pain and the regret of the past, instead of a quick visit to learn something from it. Or fearing the future, letting our imagination run wild with worry, and forgetting to see the future with Jesus. This happens when: a. we don’t really know we’re loved and b. we don’t believe that God is good.

    God’s purposes are always and only an expression of love. God works life out of death, freedom out of brokenness, and light out of darkness.

    and so much more.

    William P. Young wrote a fictional book with parts drawing you to the heart of God. Breaking religious spirits. This is how he has experienced God on his journey. Before bashing the book get to know the author. He never said this is the bible, it’s 100 percent true, i expect you to believe every single word and treat it like the bible. His purpose was to draw people to God’s love and break the power of religion.

    Believer’s minds tend to be clouded and controled by their beliefs. Believers can’t think clearly. Every bit of information is evaluated, not for its truth, wisdom, or usefulness, but whether or not it’s consistent with what is already believed.

    Our minds are so cluttered nothing is fully right or fully wrong. We take parts of things and weave them into what we already know. This book drew me closer to God. Revealed to me there was more to life than pain and heartache that God desires the best for me. This book may or may not be “religiously” correct but it has great insights about who God really is.

  5. Book Review: The Shack by William P. Young « angelainaustin Says:

    […] I must be one of the last people to read The Shack.  Written in 2007 by William Paul Young, this book quickly swept across the country and has on the New York Times Bestseller List for well over two years.  Since being published, over 10 million copies have been printed.  And now I see why. The Shack is the story of Mackenzie Allen Phillip, … Read More […]

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  8. craiglock Says:

    A Quick “Review” of THE SHACK by Paul Young

    This book has been rather controversial in many among “Christian circles”. Many dogmatic (and especially “fundamental”) Christians have condemned it as “watering down” the teachings of Jesus; however many “free-spirited and thinking followers of Jesus Christ (as well as many non-religious people will be able to relate to the spiritual principles.
    In this work of fiction (allegory?…and written for his daughter) Young explores the nature of God
    God as a “relational” Being
    A father-figure who cares deeply about His family (“the flock” and all us “children of God”). And we ALL have direct access to this Ultimate Source.
    In The Shack William Young also explores the character of God
    Grace, Love, Virtuosness, Faith, Hope, etc
    Jesus as incarnation/reincarnation of the love of God
    A God that wants to have a relationship with us??
    “Men are looking for better methods, whilst God is looking for better people.”

    God’s method is people.
    There are some real questions about God?
    The eternal question through the ages? Who is and where is God in the face of evil (terrible)?
    (That’s a book in itself, like “Why bad things happen to good people?)
    The role of free will (our choices in life)
    Has God, Life Force limited His/Her/It’s own Power???
    Who (in what) can we trust along the journey of life)?
    And especially, HOW can we trust a Being we don’t know?
    A “relationship” with Jesus (as a ‘conduit’) enables us to connect with a Higher Power, “something, a power” far greater than ourselves, a “higher dimension” of living , which will expand our sense of trust.
    “I don’t write with any agenda, but to explore a question (of life).”
    “Hope will always find a way.”

    Further exploring these themes personally may (no will) inspire me to write yet another book (and incorporate them into the tale).. But a true story, perhaps!

    “Life is God’s novel, so let the Ultimate Source, the Ground of All Being write it.”

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