Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Shack by William P. Young

I felt this book was very heavy-handed in the explaination of religion.

This book is about Mackenzie Allen Philips (who goes by “Mack”) and his quest for improving his relationship with God—even though he initially does not know it. The story begins with the Philips family on a camping trip, sans Mack’s wife Nan. His two teenagers, Josh and Kate, decide to go canoeing and almost immediately it capsizes, trapping one of the teens underneath it. Mack jumps to the rescue, his previous lifeguarding skills kicking in, helping him to save Josh. When all is well, he goes looking for Missy, his six year old daughter who he left coloring in books at the campsite, but she is nowhere to be found. A search is started and a ladybug pin with five dots on its back is found in the coloring book, a similar item that has been found at the scenes of other child abductions (this one being the fifth one, hence the five dots). A deputy states that this is a serial kidnapper and the bodies of the other children, all girls, have never been found. Still, the search continues, taking the party to some desolate places on a reserve, where they stumble upon a run-down hunter’s shack. Inside, they find a blood-stained dress, the exact one that Missy was wearing when she disappeared. Search dogs sniff around the cabin and eventually the search is closed and an empty casket buried. Three years later, Mack goes to check his mail and finds an unstamped letter in his mailbox indicating for him to return to the shack and signed “Papa,” a name that Nan uses to call God (indicating the depth of her relationship with him as Father). On a whim, he goes to the shack and finds everything the same as it was three years previous. After throwing a temper tantrum, he leaves the shack, but is amazed that while he is walking away he feels a strong, warm breeze, as it is the dead of winter with snow everywhere. He turns around and sees that the shack has transformed into a beautiful cabin and the land around it, including the lake, has thawed. It is like it is springtime all around. He goes back to the shack and finds Papa, a rotund black woman; Sarayu, a small, shimmering Asian woman; and Jesus, a man in plaid. Each of these represents one part of the Trinity: Papa as God, Sarayu as the Holy Spirit, and Jesus as himself. During his time at the cabin, he has individual experiences with each of them, allowing him to understand more fully what Christianity really is: a relationship, not rules. This allows him to come to terms with Missy’s death and also his father’s death (of which he orchestrated since his dad beat him when he was young, causing him to poison all of the liquor so his father essentially drank himself to death), along with forgive Missy’s murderer. At the end, Mack is given the choice of staying at the cabin with Papa, Sarayu, and Jesus, or return to the real world and be back with his family and friends. He chooses to go back to his family. The three vacate the cabin, but leave a cup of coffee for Mack to drink, which immediately puts him to sleep. When he awakes, it is the same day as when he arrived in the cabin (although during the time he’s with Papa, Sarayu, and Jesus, two days pass). He drives away, only to be hit by a drunk driver in the nearby town of Joseph. He is life-flighted to Portland where he recovers and tells his story.

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