In an unexpected twist of sadness and searching, W.M. Paul Young’s “The Shack” breaches the idea of God and humanity’s interactions.
When a young girl is abducted during a family trip her father and mother, along with her siblings, must learn to cope. Her father, Mackenzie Allen Philips, receives a note, seemingly from God, asking him to return to the area where evidence of his daughter was found.
Enthralling the readers in a story that crosses religious boundaries, “The Shack” puts God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost into everyday figures and places them alongside Philips during his time of pain.
For non-religious readers, Young effectively avoids preaching, instead presenting his views in an easily understandable way. Despite the effective characterization however, the entire story seems a tad unbelievable.
As Young characterizes the religious figures, he places them into everyday moments, with God cooking and Jesus creating things in the woodshop. There is a flourish of biblical references, obviously, but they do not add much credibility to the story as they follow preset assumptions.
Rather than persuading readers, Young focuses on placing the religious figures on a personal level, connecting them to a pain that is very human. This presents a way to interpret religion aside from the stereotypes that are generated, coinciding with church and worship.
Philips is coached through his hatred of his daughter’s killer, with the overlaying assumption that a father so wronged could not forgive such a crime. But as Christianity asks, Philips is drawn to forgiving and accepting.
As he continues through his religious journey Philips is able to question God, answering some of his life issues. Throughout the novel, Philips seemingly adopts a caring and forgiving outlook on life.
“The Shack” is an unpredictable novel, leaving unsuspecting readers surprised throughout the first pages. This changeup allows the reader to stay interested in the story.
Despite the language and unique story, it does not persuade one to actually believe in Christianity, or religion in general. I don’t believe Young wanted to convert readers; instead he wanted to use the story as a way to encourage open-mindedness when considering it.
Living a character’s pain and the moments when he could confront someone he believed had caused it creates a powerful connection to the character, as well as a deeper understanding of a human’s emotions.
Young efficiently emphasizes his points, portraying a story that pulls at emotions, but which is left up to each reader for interpretation.
Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.