the shack

shack.jpgthe shack, by william p. young.

seriously, who hasn’t blogged about this book? the overwhelming number of people reading the shack almost kept me from reading it. two things pushed me over into choosing to read:

1. a month or two back, i posted about my struggle with male pronouns for god. and i mentioned that, while i love the father god metaphor in scripture, i wanted, but struggled to find, a workable personified feminine metaphor for god. a few commenters said i had to read the shack, since it has god revealed (in this instance, to the main character, who needs god this way) as a large black woman with a massive passion for cooking.

2. then, my boss asked me to read it.

since well over a half-million of these babies have been sold, and since most of those seem to have posted a blog review, i’ll not go into detail about the storyline. one sentence summary: dude struggling with life and faith due to a personal tragedy spends a weekend with the trinity in a mountain cabin and has helpful and long theological conversations as well as fresh baked scones.

don’t mistake my semi-snarkiness for not liking the book. i really enjoyed it — most of it, at least. i’d highly, highly recommend it. i mean, it has some giant weaknesses. the book was self-published after several christian publishers turned it down (industry insider bit: those publishers are all kicking themselves now, of course; and a few weeks ago, after serious negotiations, the book actually got picked up by a publisher). the beauty of self-publishing, of course, is that no publishing machine stops you — it’s just the little guy (now a big guy) bringing his work to the world. the downside of self-publishing, on the other hand, shows up in things like: weak editing, massive over-use of simile and metaphor, a story that takes huge discipline on the part of the reader to stick with it beyond the first three chapters (when it starts to pick up steam), and other problems.

again, semi-snarkiness aside, though, this is a wonderful book. i cried, literally, in about three spots. i usually felt compelled to keep reading even though i had other things to do (though there were a few speeches that just went on too long, but that seems to be part-and-parcel with this genre). while most of the author’s theology is in line with the conservative evangelical theology i’ve known my whole life, he does a wonderful job of providing an at-least-somewhat fresh perspective on things theological.

i’m being really rambly on this review. so let me sum it up with this: the shack is far from a perfect book, and it will be interesting – now that it’s been picked up by a publisher – to see if they re-edit it or create a revised version; but it’s still a book to be read, a book you should read, a book you’ll want to read, a book you’ll be glad you read (like i am).

12 thoughts on “the shack”

  1. I agree…not a perfect book, but worth your time…and if you’re not crying at the end, I’d put the ol’ Grinch-meter on your heart…

  2. Mark,

    Do you think it was not originally picked up by a publisher because it was a controversial subject, or because it needed a lot of editing work?

    Part of me would totally understand that publishers would be concerned about a book that is too controversial…but, I also wonder if that means only “safer” books will ever get published. Would love to hear your perspective.

  3. I am currently reading the book right now…right in the middle of it. Great read so far.

    I have heard that it is controversial. My question is why? Is it because God is pictured as a black woman? I haven’t figured out the controversial part yet?

  4. jennifer and brian —

    i don’t think it actually IS controversial. in fact, the feeding frenzy to pick up the publishing now that it’s successful is a partial indicator of that. i just think many publisher’s, upon a cursory consideration, THOUGHT it was controversial (likely, due to god being personified as a woman). or, they (the publishers) misunderstood due to an incomplete reading, and (wrongly) concluded it wasn’t theologically sound. of course, the author deals with that right up front, and i haven’t actually talked to anyone who has read the book and thought it was controversial, even if they have traditional conservative theology.

  5. Hi
    Don’t read many reviews, but enjoyed yours (snarkiness and all :)
    Just for clarification, the book was not picked up by a big publisher…a big publisher entered into an cooperative publishing and distribution agreement with Windblown Media (the publisher of The Shack – not self published technically)…the only changes you will see on the editing side are very minor ones having to do with lyric copyrights and nothing with the book’s content)…now you know more than most of the other bloggers out there. Fun, eh?
    Blessings on you,
    Paul (author of The Shack)

  6. Hey Mark.. I actually read the book a few months back and really enjoyed most of it.. Although I too had some points where I had to push myself to read past. But I’m glad I read it.. I found my self sobbing in a few spots. I’ll tell you what, I don’t think they will translate this one, and if they do, it will be intresting to see the sales. It will be very shocking to the latin american church, well to most of it (excluding me, Junior, and the rest of the Spanish YS team. hahhaha)

  7. Good review. I finished it a few weeks ago in the desert & was crying as well. Did you ever figure out what the “theological controversy” was?

  8. ed – had a talk with someone tonite who had more of a handle of what people are considering controversial (please understand these are not my issues):
    – the relationship of the trinity
    – the lack of a church, and the lack of focus on scripture
    – and, there are some who are saying he promotes universalism (which is a stretch, i think)

  9. Marko, you are correct on the controversity. Of course, if William comes back on, he could address those.

    Driscoll is the one (I believe) that really nailed him on the trinity.

    A friend of mine had conversation with William and said that universalism is not what he was teaching or promoting; even though many are reading that into the book.

    Then yes, individuals did no see it as a “christian book”. I talked to a few Christian bookstore folks and they thought it was “spiritual” but not “christian-neese”

  10. I have really enjoyed the book and it has opened some great conversations with people. Steve Brown has a great interview with Young online. The controversies seem to mainly be coming from our Reformed brothers.

  11. Mark,

    I did pick up a copy of The Shack and read most of it this weekend. Seems like a lot of word until we get to the meat of the story- would you agree? Mt first tears came as the God-figure said dudes name and embraced him…I felt a little overwhelmed in that small moment- it was nice. :)

    I could not help to think that that very personification was done 30 years ago in “Oh, God!” with George Burns. Remember John Denver being in the grocery store talking to “God” and then God changing into different folks- including a large African-American woman? “God” said something like, “I only appear to you in the form you can accept.” Hmmm…

    I am about to start reading “The Last Lecture”.

    Thanks for your blog!

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