Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
The Shack: William P. Young, 18–30 September, 2010.
My rating: ♦♦◊◊◊
After much badgering, pestering and cajoling, I attempted The Shack for a second time, and read the book in its entirety. It’s hard to review this as a book because it was missing the conventional features of a novel, such as a plot.
The bulk of The Shack centres around the parent of a child kidnapped on holiday (coincidentally published in 2007, the year of Madeline McCann’s disappearance) who hooks up with God at the place of her murder. Over an evening-long weekend, he converses with God the Mother (Sharon D. Clarke turned Morgan Freeman), God the Son and God the Flickering Version Of The Asian Woman From Lost, along with a cameo from The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-style Trinity member four of three (aka Sophia).
First up, kudos to Young for dealing head-on with tough issues. Why is there so much suffering in the world if there is a loving God? Why does God allow these things to happen to children? Why isn’t everybody saved? These and many other questions are tackled where many other authors try to pretend they’re never asked.
And, OK, it’s a fairly original idea.
On the downside, I found myself in a real quandary as to how to read The Shack. There are some things Young says that I agree with, others I am impartial on, but a third category with which I totally disagree. Over-analysing every statement was drawing away from the book, but when you try to ignore the theology and just read the story, you’re left with… with nothing. Because the bulk of The Shack is, essentially, the Gospel According to William P. Young. A Gospel which is, basically, flawed. Those by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John are much better alternatives.
Besides which, I had a real tough time accepting a man putting words into God’s mouth, albeit a fictitious portrayal of God. Passing off any opinion as God’s is dodgy territory, let alone in fiction, let alone in fiction sandwiched between a foreword and afterword which are at great pains to suggest the tale is fact.
Even the quasi-plot that exists within the conversation is terrible. Although Missy’s kidnap/death/transfiguration was dealt with quite well, other aspects were just bizarre. Mack’s sudden and inexplicable forgiveness of his father, for no apparent reason, took place in about three seconds and then after they sobbed a bit, that was it over with. Not to mention the walking on water with Jesus, which seemed to be a parody of Bruce Almighty – and spoofing a Jim Carrey movie is like softening up a marshmallow.
In the end, I had to conclude that The Shack was written with the best of intentions, but perhaps Young’s first intention should have been the one he stuck to – making a copy for his family, not publishing it, and keeping it well away from public consumption. Because it gives your head and your heart indigestion.