The Shack, by William P Young

I picked up The Shack, by William P Young after hearing him talk to Oprah on her Supersoul podcast (totes inspirational n’ stuff). Since she raved about it and bought copies for all her friends, I thought I’d give it a shot.

The book is about Mack and the disappearance of his six year old daughter, Missy, and the “great sadness” that follows him thereafter. That is, until he meets God: a large black woman with a cheeky attitude who loves to bake. If I make the premise sound stupid, it’s not my intention. I don’t mind the concept of the story at all.

The book was interesting and had plenty of momentum for me to dive right in. I read the book from start to finish without putting it down, so the bits I’m complaining about (below) couldn’t have been too distracting. I wanted Mack to be OK and when an author writes fiction in a way that allows you to feel empathy and a sense of connection, then you really can’t expect much more! Kudos to you, William P. Young.

However, (and here’s the whingy bit), I found there was a lot of “telling” rather than “showing”. This was particularly the case in the introduction of the book, where William explains not only the appearance of the main character, but also some of his past experiences and personal attributes. I thought all this could have been better told within the story, rather than as a lead in.

William also wrote himself into the book as the main character’s good friend and  explained in the introduction that while he wrote the book, it was all Mack’s story. Since Mack was not a good writer he told the story to William, who penned it for him. William also explained that while he himself was sometimes featured in the book, it was only from Mack’s perspective. This constructed relationship in a fictional story seemed to serve very little purpose, but I guess can be attributed to the fact that William originally wrote the book just for his family and friends (as he explains in the Oprah podcast).

Overall the book was a bit too religious for me. Some of the religious aspects were really lovely, such as when Jesus spoke about his dislike for organised religion and the way many religious people separate themselves from others in an attempt to be superior; blindly following rules that don’t exist. Other parts of the book felt slightly condescending, like I was at Sunday School and was being taught a lesson.

The book simply wasn’t for me but I think that’s more my issue than the author’s. Despite a few shortcomings that I mentioned, I think younger readers with a Christian upbringing who grapple with some of Christianity’s contradictions (but want to stick with their religion) may find this book enjoyable. Even though the subject matter is quite dark – being the disappearance of a little girl – it’s quite a “feel good” book.

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