Sitting here trying to gather my thoughts about this book feels like I am trying to realise my limited understanding of the world around me, both spiritual and physical and my words seem wholly inadequate. William P.Young had no such trouble. This book is beautiful, not just the writer’s style or choice of words, but for what it carries.
Sometimes when I am reading and interrupted, I get frustrated. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, feeling ripped out of the fantasy of my escape. But sitting, on the floor in the sun’s warm rays with my young kids arguing and drawing at the desk beside me, I acknowledge their constant demands and feel peace, not frustration. Because something is different about this book, something has transpired in me. Instead of losing myself in its world, this book has infiltrated into mine, causing me to slow my response, to observe, to breathe. It’s not about the act of reading or enjoying the escape, it’s about feeling the words, consuming its heart and that is something rare and beautiful.
This is exactly the kind of book I want to be reading and writing this year. Books that bypass the head and speak straight to the heart. In saying that, I couldn’t put my pen down. I tried. Multiple times I gathered the book up in my hands and tried to dive right in, but the diamonds kept rising to the surface, I had to keep them close, I had to commit them to memory. Those words I myself had struggled to find when life got hard, or when a heartfelt question was asked that I didn’t know the answers to.
I found myself writing my responses. Writing quotes word for word because I knew they were my words, my questions written down on these pages, and I too needed the answers. The question on the back cover which initially drew me in, is one that has always intrigued and confused me. ‘Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain’. It is a question that resonates with Christians and non-Christians alike. While my faith has always been strong, when challenges arise I find myself saying ‘I believe, but seriously God…REALLY???” Knowing is different to believing and this book lays it all out on the table.
“Just because you believe something firmly doesn’t make it true. Be willing to re-examine what you believe.” (Pg 197)
Talking about the actual story here for a minute, the first thing that struck me as a mother was the ‘normality’ of his daughter Missy’s abduction. It could have happened to anybody, anytime and anywhere. Then the brutality of it. Missy was taken while the main character Mack was distracted, literally saving the life of one of his other children. It was so real, so normal and so devastating.
Mack’s feelings were some that I recognise, the beauty of his broken words screamed at a God who let him down so badly, a heart laid bare. He spoke of his grief being something he was familiar with, almost like a friend, which resonated with me. Grief and anger can be a constant companion, one you come to rely on.
Each chapter was just as captivating as the last, building you up, just to break you down, then building you up again. I found myself asking questions, and then finding them answered further on in the book. Profound messages were wrapped up in humour, and some even challenged everything I, like many, had come to rely on as truth.
“Am I supposed to believe that God is a big black woman with a questionable sense of humour?”
(Mack, Page 89).
I personally love that picture, and its explanation makes perfect sense to me.
I wrote eight pages of notes while reading The Shack, not specifically for this review, mostly just for me, because I want to write these words on my heart so that when the need arises, I have some answers that I wholeheartedly agree with.
I have no desire to give you a breakdown of the plot because I couldn’t do it justice. Other than to say the story is about a man broken by unspeakable tragedy who is desperately seeking something, though he doesn’t know what. So, when a suspicious invitation to the shack in which his young daughter was murdered arrives in the mail, he decides to take the risk and turn up. He doesn’t know if it’s a cruel joke, her killer trying to lure him away from his family or God, which of course seems ludicrous.
What unfolds is a beautiful redemptive story which answers age-old questions and speaks to religious traditions in a way I have never heard from a pulpit.
“All I ask of you is when you start to sink, let me rescue you.” Pg 180