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The Shack - William P. Young

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Author: William P. Young / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 17 July 2008 / Genre: Fiction / Subcategory: Religious & Spiritual Fiction / Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division / Title: The Shack / ISBN 13: 9780340979495 / ISBN 10: 0340979495

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      19.04.2011 08:29
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      A book with no discernible aim

      "The Shack" is a book that has divided opinion. In the United States it has been at the top of Christian booksellers lists for the best part of two years and it's the first overtly Christian book I remember seeing in the WHSmith's chart for a long time. But on the flip side, some Christian leaders have condemned the message and the lead elder at my own church refuses to have it stocked on our church bookstall, yet some of the members of my church have read the book and thought it was great.

      "The Shack" follows the story of Mackenzie Allen Phillips, who has been living with what he calls "The Great Sadness" for several years since his daughter Missy was kidnapped during a camping holiday and never found. Then one day, he receives a note inviting him back to the shack in the wilderness where the last trace of Missy was ever found. The note is signed in a way that only Mack's family would know referred to God.

      Mack decides to go back to the shack for the weekend to confront whoever sent him that note. He is astonished to find God is actually at the shack, along with Jesus and Sarayu, and so Mack and the trinity spend the weekend together working through the many issues he has, mostly stemming from Missy's kidnapping and presumed death. Mack has to learn much about forgiveness and judgement and how God can be good in a world where bad things happen.

      "The Shack" is certainly a very interesting book. The story leads Mack through a number of the biggest issues affecting Christians, especially newer Christians and tackles a number of the questions frequently asked. It takes on the issue of forgiveness when you've been badly wronged, how to avoid being judgemental, the relationship between the Holy Trinity and how you can be sure God loves us when the world is such a nasty place. However, the way it approaches some of these issues is a little hit and miss and it is in turns helpful and confusing and I can see why my own lead elder isn't quite so keen on having the book readily available to members of our church.

      From a Christian point of view, some of the aspects in the book are maddeningly inconsistent. The issue of forgiveness is a huge one and can affect some Christians in a major way, yet the story passes over it very quickly and doesn't really give too many answers that would be helpful to anyone. In contrast, the aspects of judgement and how God can be considered good and loving in a world where there is so much pain and suffering is handled very well and I found that to be quite helpful. The aspects that cover the relationship between God and man and with Himself as part of the Trinity were also quite sensitively handled.

      It's quite difficult at points to see who the book might be aimed at. As a believer, I can see how parts of the story could work out to be true, yet the manner of God's appearance doesn't quite sit well with the teachings I've heard on the nature of God. The way this aspect is explained I found to be deeply confusing and very poorly done. In some ways, there is not enough structure here for the book to be entirely useful from a Christian perspective, yet there is far too much teaching here for it to be entirely enjoyable as a novel for non-Christians as it does contain a bit too much that could be considered preachy.

      The presentation of the story is also rather confusing. The introduction and the way it is told suggest it is the reflection of a true story, but later parts of the story shed some doubt on this. I think it could have been more convincing if it was one or the other, as I ended the book feeling slightly confused about where the target audience was and whether this was intended as a testimony or as a novel. Admittedly, none of it can be easily verified, but that would at least be consistent with the way God talks to an individual.

      However, if it's not convincing as a testimony, I also found myself unimpressed with the book as a novel. Dependent on your viewpoint, it requires too much suspension of disbelief to be entirely effective, from either a Christian or non-Christian perspective. It's also not particularly well written, which can make getting through things a bit of a slog sometimes and I think the ending is especially poorly done and confusing.

      This is a remarkable book in the bravery it has shown in trying to explain the character of God to an audience that wouldn't necessarily read a book of this type. However, in trying to balance this with a desire to remain relevant to a Christian audience, I feel it has spread itself a little too thinly and risks alienating its entire audience. It's too Christian and preachy in parts for non-believers to feel entirely settled with it, unless you have been looking into and considering faith issues and it's not quite consistent enough to be entirely useful as a Christian resource.

      Ultimately, this is a fascinating book, which is why it spent so long in the book charts in the US and made it onto WHSmith's bestsellers list in the UK. However, it's also ultimately inconsistent and confusing in parts, which is why it can be found on both eBay and the Amazon Marketplace for a penny plus postage. It's an intriguing resource and if you are investigating faith issues, worth borrowing, but is best read with an open mind and with the availability of someone who can help answer the questions it's likely to raise.

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        09.04.2011 12:17
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        Interesting Christian fiction

        I'd heard some positive things about 'The Shack' and so actively looked for it at the library. I was particularly interested because it is billed as good Christian fiction and I've an aspiring author friend who wants to write in that vein.

        Not being religious myself, I thought it would be a hard sell for me, but after the first chapter or so, I was quite enjoying the read.

        ...

        The novel takes on some tough material because the storyline follows a man in the aftermath of a tragedy: his daughter was snatched and killed while the family were on holiday. This doesn't sound a promising start for an uplifting read!

        The main character, Mack, is struggling to come to terms with his loss and somehow retain his faith. When he receives a note inviting him to the shack where his daughter was killed from someone signing himself Papa, the name his wife uses for God, he thinks it's some kind of sick joke. Curiosity and anger aroused, he eventually decides to go out to the lakeside.

        Who or what will he find when he gets there?

        ...

        Now, I have to say, the story does suffer a bit in the attempt to combine theology, apologetics and fiction. It is a bit leaden and lumpen in parts: the prose isn't always great. I found the repeated description of Mack's bereavement as 'the great sadness' a bit twee rather than moving. I was also somewhat uncomfortable with the depiction of some of the characters in the book, which seemed to sail close to racial stereotyping.

        Those issues aside, I think I caught a glimpse of what the enthusiasts of this book love so much about it and how they could find it reassuring, uplifting and enlightening.

        Young seemed to be going for a very inclusive and fluid theology. Some of the ideas in this book haven't gone down well with some denominations, however, as I understand it.

        The author was tackling the 'problem of evil/pain' on earth juxtaposed with the belief in a benevolent omnipotent god, which to me is a big stumbling block. His resolution of (and attempt to make palatable) these issues didn't work for me, although I could see what he was saying. I can't say I came out of the novel convinced by his argument. But the book wasn't written for me as his target audience, I feel, while I can imagine that it would be a book that a lot of Christians would find heartening.

        Over all, it was an interesting book, not perfect by any means, and controversial in some respects. I'd recommend it to those of the religious bent, primarily.

        ...

        'The Shack' is available from Amazon new at £4.46, although you'll be able to find it cheaper elsewhere or secondhand.

        Product details (as available from Amazon):

        * Paperback: 256 pages
        * Publisher: Hodder Windblown; First Edition edition (17 July 2008)
        * Language English
        * ISBN-10: 0340979496
        * ISBN-13: 978-0340979495
        * Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2 cm

        (This review appears elsewhere under this user-name but has been lovingly revamped for DooYoo). Thanks for reading.

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          27.02.2011 09:04

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          Will keep you reading and reading...

          This book is a rollecoaster of emotions and I admit to crying my eyes out from practically cover to cover. I am not really a religious person but I was brought up in a very religious family so I do believe but not to the extent of my parents. My parents bought me this book when I was going through a really bad patch in my life and I think they were hoping it would help me get back my belief. This is not quite what happened but it does make you question things.

          The book is a christian book but I don't think you need to be religious to enjoy it. I loved this book and have recommended it to quite a few friends who have also really enjoyed it.

          Without ruining the story the book is basically about a guy who loses his daughter which makes him question his faith. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit then appear in his life in different forms (An African woman, a Middle Eastern man and an Asian woman). The book is mainly about his conversations with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit and how they lead him to discover where his daughters body is and to the killer being arrested.

          Definately worth a read whether you believe in God or not

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          06.02.2011 01:45
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          A thought provoking, spiritually challenging, emotional rollercoaster. one mans story of acceptance

          Without giving away the plot too much this book has managed to take me on a gamut of emotions. From the heart wrenching disappearance and murder of a little girl through the abolishment of sadness and grief every emotion that is felt by Mckenzie will be felt by you. I am not normaly that bowled over by a book and with the exception of a little "waffling" by the author in the middle (which although was necessary to evolve the story still managed to annoy me)

          Although the plot is based on the brutal murder of a small child (enough already to tug the heart strings) this book is predominantly about one mans exploration of his emotions and how spiritual enlightment can help him understand and ultimately accept the consequences of his life. Beautifully written, spiritually enlightening and although religious qualities are a main factor of the book this is not the point of the story.

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            23.10.2010 18:54
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            a book about Beliefs and God

            I have to admit, when this book came through the post, I was very apprehensive about reading this; the blurb (back of the book) makes it seem uninteresting and made me not want to read this. Anyhow, I persevered and read it, and I still do not know what to make of this book, and you shall find out later on. But I do have to admit, I found it extremely weird and definitely something that could potentially be very controversial, but it also intrigued me into the story, so it's very difficult, for me, to decide what I thought about it.

            Well, let's start off with the author. William P. Young. I had never ever heard of this author before this book came through the door. So naturally he is a new author to me. So I looked him up on "fantasticfiction.com" which basically just showed me that he has only ever published this one book. Which made me realised that I have managed to read all of an author's novels, for the first time ever in my life. There's not a lot known about him, and he is only well-known because of this book. I don't know whether he plans to release any more books, but if he does, I know I may just read it, to see if it's just as interesting as this book was, in a weird and wonderful way. He's writing technique is very engaging, and since this book wasn't the sort of book I would've read, he's writing style made it much easier for me, and I read it quicker than I expected.
            The book starts off with an introduction, which basically outlined what the story was about and how he felt about the story, and what he hopes to gain by releasing the book. It gave in depth to his thoughts and what he wants you to understand. I very much recommend you reading the introduction rather than skipping it, as it could affect the way in which you read the book.

            The book centres around a father of five called Mackenzie Philips, "Mack" for short. He and he's children go on a camping holiday/vacation, and while away one of his children go missing. Police and everything is called, and they later find out that this has been happening in the area for some time now.
            Anyway sometime later on, Mack receives a note in his mailbox from "Papa," saying that he would like to meet with Mack on that coming weekend at the shack. Mack is puzzled by the note - he has no relationship with his abusive father after Mack leaves home at age 13. He suspects that the note may be from God, whom his wife Nan refers to as "Papa."

            We later realise that the shack, is a shack. It's broken and in need of repair. Mack almost gives up hope, and goes back home, but instead he doesn't, and the next minute, the shack has totally changed and there is 3 people living there.
            These three people are God the Father who takes the form of an African American woman who calls herself Papa, Jesus Christ is a Middle-Eastern carpenter, and the Holy Spirit physically manifests itself as an Asian woman named Sarayu. Mack is there to work out a few things in his life, and stop him from going out of control, but can he really succeed with believing God takes 3 different forms?

            I believe this centres about beliefs and people's thoughts on God, this can make this story be seen in many different ways, people believe different things when it comes to God, and so I presume this book would be totally different from one person to the next. I highly believe that this book would be brilliantly made into a film, although it would probably not work as some people will envisage something, and then someone else will imagine the exact bit, but differently. So, in theory, a film wouldn't be such a good idea.
            This book, like many other books I have read, stands alone, I can fit this into loads of different genres, but I'll never ever be too sure if I've put it in the right one. This book contains a lot of different things and I would get confused what sort of book it is. But if I have to be honest it totally fits under the religion aspect of books, purely because it centres around beliefs and what people make God out to be. I, personally, had to read this book, keeping in mind that the story is completely fiction. Other people would totally disagree, but I do not believe in God, and in order for me to read this book I had to imagine that this book was totally fiction. But you may not do that when you read this book.

            I found this really interesting and a brilliant story-line. I found this ending really good and maybe a little different to common endings in books. I found the writing style brilliant and so therefore I could get into the book really easily. I have to admit, I found myself reflecting on what had happened in the book, although I pushed myself into believing it was just a pure fun read. I also thought the emotions ran through the book amazingly and interestingly, and you really got a feeling for "Mack", and as the book progressed, you understood the characters more and more. It will always be a book I'll remember until the day I die, but I do not know whether it would be one I would like to read again, I'm just not sure I want to. But then again, maybe I will change my mind when I get older, and I may be able to see the book really differently than I do now. But I haven't learnt how to see the future yet, so I really don't know what I would be doing then.
            I think this book will appeal to everyone in one way or another. (People who keep on reading my reviews will realise I say this in nearly every book review I make,) But I stick to what I say, because I truly believe this world needs to read more, and see what different books are like and I'm sure there is a book out there for everyone. I think people would find this interesting and different, and I reckon my idea about this book would be totally different to another person's. But if I had to recommend this book to anyone, it would have to be people who are trying to see where they stand in religion and trying to work out what their beliefs are. I don't know if this book would help at all, I hope to think it would, but it is a VERY controversial book, such as the "Dan Brown" books are. So I really do not have a clue whether this book is good or bad, as lots of people would think different things.

            I do not know whether people will take offence to what this book is saying. I realise that using God as a character in a book can be extremely controversial due to the many different religions and many people standing by their beliefs, however I feel that this book is there to show what and who God is, and I don't know how people would feel about that, some people may feel that this book is total nonsense and shouldn't have been allowed to be published, when others might think that this book is a work of art and deserves it's place in the publishing world. I am neutral in this argument as I don't know what I feel about this book and I don't think I ever will.
            I definitely found this book interesting, and I totally enjoyed typing up my review on this as I also found that interesting. I would like to thank you all for reading, and rating, and I would be very interested in any comments you wish to leave, or any messages you wish to send me. I'd very much like to hear your thoughts on this book as well!

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              15.04.2010 18:37
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              Occasionally deep and meaningful tale of a man who goes to have a chat with God........

              I am not a theologian, nor do I have any particular expertise or extended religious knowledge. I was recommended this book, though, and am always willing to try something I normally wouldn't, thus keeping an open mind. The Shack tells of one man's 'journey' of religious discovery in the face of disaster, and does so in a way that tries to appeal in a very casual way to all readers.

              After a brief introduction, we meet Mack, a man with five kids who is unable to get over the loss of his youngest daughter, taken from him during a stay in woodland near a lake, at a place referred to only as 'The Shack.' Then, one day, Mack receives a note in his mailbox, asking if he wants to meet up. Nothing strange there, you may think. True, apart from two things. It asks to meet in The Shack, and is signed from Papa, Mack's wife's nickname for God. After wrestling with whether to go or not, Mack heads off to The Shack, where he finds a strange kind of Holy Trinity.

              It's a strange combination of writing style, let alone the unfamiliar subject for me. There are two things going on consecutively. The first, a harrowing and disastrous tale of one man trying to come to terms with the loss of a child. The second is a religious experience, at times, verging on preachy, designed to offer an explanation of how 'He' moves in mysterious ways. If this book was offered as one OR the other, neither would have been worth the read. One would have been dull and depressing; the other would have been too preachy. As a combination, there are elements that work very well, and I have to admit I was smiling at quite a few parts of it. Others I was riveted and felt very sad by.

              However, I also found myself really struggling with it from time to time. The book would go from snappy and witty events and dialogue to long and drawn out paragraphs of religious explanation and theory. I found the contrast between the two was too conflictual, and didn't lend itself to steady reading in the slightest. As a result, the 250 or so pages the book contains took me well over three weeks to read, whereas normally something like that wouldn't stretch more than a couple of days.

              Characterisation is a tricky one. Aside from a brief moment at the beginning of the book, and a couple of small and brief appearance at other times, the main characters are Mack, and the Holy Trinity. Mack is portrayed as a confused soul in desperate need of being shown the right path, but at the same time, Wm Paul Young manages to portray him as someone who feels he has been let down by God. This provided many seeking questions from him that I found really interesting. It was sometimes the long winded and almost preachy answers that were hard to take in.

              God is shown to be a large black woman, while Jesus is a grubby carpenter and Sarayu (Holy Spirit) a beautiful olive-skinned being. They are all humanised, and sort of given an EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) overhaul to break away from people's perceptions. I found it disconcerting at first, but soon likened it to the Oracle from the Matrix films in terms of God, while Jesus was sort of portrayed as you would expect, and Sarayu is perhaps the lesser of the three in terms of being examined as a character. And yes, there's a bit about walking on water which is well explored. There is a sort of casual feel about the whole thing, and this is examined through the actions (and NOT the explanations) of the Trinity. I found that Papa (who you'll remember is God) acts as if things are a joke and nothing fazes him/her, but ultimately this comes across either as if it's not serious or as if it's too forced.

              All this adds up to yet another book I must sit on the fence with. I have to say I wouldn't read it again, and had I known what it would hold before reading it, I may not have bothered in the first place. Yet I can't deny that it has set me thinking about things, and looking at the important things in my life. In this respect, it is spiritual and motivational, and it does make you feel more positive about things. I suppose it's designed to let each individual reader gain what they want from it, in a very casual way. It's almost as if Young is shrugging and saying, 'Here's what I think. Just thought I'd put it out there. You may agree, you may like it......or you may not.' (Complete with another shrug, and a relaxed grin, I imagine).

              Religion and discovery is at the heart of this tragic tale. It puts things into perspective, and at times races along. However, it also drags, and it's not the sort of book you can expect to whizz through. You'll need a bit of time to read this properly and take everything in, and although it may well be the one thing you have been needing to read, it may also be the one thing you decide you want to steer well clear of. Either way, I think it's the sort of text people should probably have a good look at and decide whether it's for them or not. Fence-sitting, once again!

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                16.11.2009 22:02
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                Love it or hate it.. or maybe both at once.

                This book was recommended to me by a friend, who said it was "harrowing, but worth it." Given the subject matter - a man whose young daughter had been brutally abducted and murdered - I was prepared for the worst.

                The story begins with a little background - Mack is a father of five children, and after taking his eyes off his little girl for a few moments on a camping trip, she is lost to him forever. The resulting grief and guilt creates "the great sadness" from which he believes he can never escape. Reading this book raises unanswerable questions - how do parents cope in these situations? The pain they must endure is unimaginable.

                The crux of the story is that Mack receives a mysterious note inviting him to "The Shack" for the weekend - the very same place where his daughter's bloodstained clothing was found - his last contact with her. It could be a sick prank of course, or even a note from the killer himself. But it is signed Papa - the name that Mack's more devotional wife Nan uses for God. How could anyone else know that? Mack decided to take the risk, and secretly heads to the weekend home.

                And here's where it gets crazy. I don't think it will be a spoiler to say that he meets God - the trinity - in human (sort of) form. I have to admit, the way the three characters were portrayed grated on my nerves ever so slightly. It's basically what the BBC would have come up with in one of their "diversity" kicks. I didn't find the ideas themselves offensive, just slightly patronising. The idea that "God isn't an old man with a white beard, you know," is not all that original, or even new.

                If I were being really critical, I would add that I found the laughing, joking, exuberant God slightly... facetious? It's not that I think God wouldn't be like this; it's just that when the heart of the book is a grieving father, it seems a little insensitive to just bypass his pain and go straight for the "But God is wonderful!" line. Ok, so Mack is angry, and as the book goes on, some of his questions are answered, or at least appeased. But I couldn't help imaging that some parents who have lost children might turn to this book for some comfort or illumination and find themselves having to wade through prose about Jesus being a really funny guy. It didn't feel appropriate to me.

                The theology veers towards "new age" beliefs: "Those who love me have come from every system that exists.... I have no desire to make them Christian...." But it always neatly side steps this before it goes far enough to alienate more traditional Christians. I should mention that I am quoting selectively, and I don't think there is anything in this book that is too subversive; it's nothing C.S. Lewis hasn't already covered brilliantly in The Last Battle. (Now there is a heavy theology book disguised as a kid's story!)

                I did find the book emotionally hard going - not only Mack's story but the collective grief and loss that exists in the human race because of bad things that happen. The book did a pretty neat job of explaining things from God's point of view, although, as with all these types of books, it's fairly hard to give God any "explaining the universe" monologues that don't come across as a little bit cheesy.

                Having said that, I did enjoy this book, if "enjoy" is the right word for something I read compulsively until it left me a blubbering wreck. You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved, even if the theology isn't your thing. It certainly raises some interesting questions; particularly in the case of judgement - the way we judge God (for not running the world as we think He should) and His judgement for us (Q: how can you judge your own children? A: You can't).

                If you enjoy this kind of imaginative God story, you might want to read "Embraced by the light" by Betty J. Eadie. It's the allegedly true story of what happened to one women when she died, went to Heaven and lived to tell the tale. It may be imagination or craziness, but a hell of a lot of it made sense to me... enjoy!

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                  04.11.2009 21:41
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                  marvellous account of a controversial situation

                  Tear jerking yet heart warming, tears you apart yet brings you closer to an understanding of faith in a Christian God, controversial yet so appealing, a genuine roller coaster of a read. This book is incredible. Many struggle to understand the concept of God, church, faith, people, why things happen the way they do, suffering, life, death, loss, depression... yet this books sheds new, yet obvious light and life into all of these things. At times I couldn't put the book down. At other times I couldn't pick it up due to the sadness it dares to explore. Yet a truely magnificent piece of work which dares to be different. I feel like so many questions have been answered and so many lights turned on. A controversially personal portrayal of God, yet one which I think the world needs to hear if it is to reach a deeper level of understanding of the Christian faith. Be careful to digest each page as you go as it can get quite deep.

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                    16.09.2009 18:16
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                    Don't be so open-minded your brain falls out

                    The Shack was published in 2007 and 2 years on, it's still at Number 2 in the New York Times best sellers list. What is it about this book that has attracted so many people from different walks of life?

                    The Shack deals with the story of a man, Mack, whose daughter, Missy, has been abducted and is presumed dead. 4 years after this tragedy, Mack and his family are still struggling to deal with this event and where to lay the blame. Mack gets a letter which seems to be from God, inviting him to "The Shack" where his daughter's bloody clothing was found. Intrigued, angry and perplexed, Mack goes to the shack and their confronts God and all of his issues.

                    The Shack is well written and draws you along in the emotions of the story. I found it utterly absorbing and difficult to put down. It also raises many of the deepest questions we deal with as humans - Why do bad things happen? Why did God create us if he knew we would go bad? If God is in control, does that mean he's in control of evil too? How can we get out of the cycle of human sin? Although the author, William Young, has some interesting ideas and things to day, unfortunately his answers to these questions are wrong and ultimately empty.

                    Perhaps The Shack is so popular because it allows us to stay in comfort - according to Young, God does not ask anything of us. He simply offers us a relationship and if we don't want it, that's fine. Great! I'll stay as I am then! This small deception is a huge problem, as God actually requires that we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour - not our equal.

                    The Shack is worth a read, but a careful read. Accept the useful and perceptive images, but check whether what Young is saying is right. And do spend some time confronting your issues with God, but with the Bible open!

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                      12.09.2009 22:50
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                      Quick review

                      The shack is in essence Christian doctrine dressed up in the form of one mans tragedy and his subsequent grief and redemption. I found the novel to be interesting and the religious aspect did not swamp the storyline too much and it did raise a few theological discussions regarding the role of religion and God in modern day society. I would recommend the novel to others for that reason alone.
                      However, the main protagonists redemption is a rather heavy handed and formulaic plot device to ensure the readers reach the authors intended religious message that a) belief can not be forced and b)God is in everything.
                      Individual responses to this novel probably vary greatly and may depend on whether readers are religious or have been affected by tragedy or illness. Which will make the novels story and message more poignant and meaningful. I am slightly sinical however regarding the almost chain letter aspect to the request to buy and give a copy to all your friends/ neighbours, no wonder he/she has sold so many copies.

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                      22.07.2009 10:58
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                      Don't believe the hype ~ DO make up your own mind. I am, after all, in the minority...

                      As per normal, it seems I must disagree with my fellow Dooyooers once again. I am very sorry to report that I found nothing emotional or redeeming about this book whatsoever and instead found myself being asked to suspend disbelief beyond even my humble ability. I am very surprised that the book has garnered such rave reviews both here and on Amazon but suspect that much of it's success lies behind the enormous amount of hype that has been thrust upon it....

                      I had been wanting to read this book for a few months ever since I first saw it on the shelves at all the big book-shops so when I saw it offered as a swap on Readitswapit, I thought I should give it a go. The book claims to help you (re)discover your spirituality and your faith in GOD and answer some of the eternal questions mankind has always pondered such as why if GOD is all good does he allow atrocities to happen but I am very sorry to say I achieved no such epiphany and instead walked away more confused than ever. Not over mankind's eternal questions but more over who would recommend this to others to read?

                      The book follows a weekend in the life of McKenzie Allen Phillips who loses his youngest daughter to a notorious serial killer whilst out on a camping vacation. Four years later, still struggling to cope, he recieves an invitation to return to the shack where they found his daughter's bloodied clothing addressed to him by the family's name for GOD, whom they call Papa. He decides that either it is a cruel joke or some kind of trick but goes anyway. And it is here that he meets his own version of The Holy Trinity and undergoes a very spiritual and emotion-ridden journey that the reader is invited to go along with....

                      Most reviewers will not tell you what or whom Mackenzie encounters at The Shack but I do so here not to spoil anyone's enjoyment but to give a clearer picture of what the book is about so that others, less religious than I, don't make the same mistake I did and pick this up thinking it will be something it is not. Unless you are a very devoted catholic or christian, and maybe not even then, I don't think you will enjoy this book! I am not religious in the sense that I refuse to follow any one organised religion because, amongst other reasons, of the atrocities that are carried out all across the globe in the name of GOD but I am agnostic and do believe in something. I always say that part of me believes in The Divine Creator but that I prefer to keep my own counsel with GOD and that a person's faith should be their own business. This book attempts, for me, to be some kind of christian recruitment manual and, as such, is marketed at it's close with heavy hints and brute forcefulness that readers should pass the book on, buy family members their own copies and spread the message far and wide across all the Internet and beyond to better share it's spiritual spoils. If nothing else, this puts me off a little as I feel as though I am being brow-beaten into spreading a message I am not sure I believe in ~ and that is that this is nothing but an experiment in religious hype!

                      I do not want to take away anything from those who have read and enjoyed this and consider it a book that can be read and enjoyed but I do wonder if they read the same book I did! As soon as Mckenzie reaches The Shack, I found myself really struggling to come to terms with what was happening and there was no belief, on my part, in any of the remaining story whatsoever! GOD if he exists, speaks to me I think in my own way but never once has he invited me out to his holiday home! Maybe I am just beyond redemption and condemned for all eternity to remain a sinner....oh well, better get on and enjoy it while it lasts then... :)

                      Like I say, I do not want to take away anything from those who have enjoyed this and believe me when I say I can understand (just) how reading this might reaffirm a person's faith in what they believe in but you would have to be a better man than me than take anything away from this in my eyes and I am sorry but I cannot recommend this in any shape and form and still come back here with a clear conscience.

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                        25.06.2009 19:17
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                        Magnificent

                        'The Shack' by William Paul Young appeared on one of my Amazon lists and immediately caught my attention. I tend to consider most books where the star rating is four or above and this one was sitting at four. What really got my curiosity up though was the split of the ratings. Of the 259 people to have reviewed it 58% had given it full marks with 20% giving it the minimum mark. Books which are based on religion tend to polarise people but even still I thought that this was worth a try with so many people giving it full marks.

                        I can't really sum the story up any better than the back of the book does itself so here is some of the text from it

                        'Mackenzie Allen Philip's youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to the shack for a weekend.

                        Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.'

                        I have never read a book like this before and doubt I will read another like it. The premise is excellent. A man who has lost a child in the worst circumstances imaginable will come face to face with God and demand the answers that he feels he is due.

                        The story is a short one at 248 pages but it is by no means an easy read. The text is fairly small so it is probably the equivalent of 300+ pages in standard paperback size. The story starts off in a gentle enough way. Its four years on from the incident involving Missy's disappearance and we are given a picture of Mack's life. His Great Sadness still dominating him and that event still hangs heavy over his entire family. The story then takes you back to what happened on the days leading up to the horrific event. Then we are told what actually happened and the investigation which followed. All of this is done very tastefully and there are large elements that you do not know. In fact as the reader you are in the same position as Mack. You are only given the facts he is aware of. Namely, his daughter is missing, a child serial killer has left a calling card known only to the police, and his daughter's blood soaked dress has been found at the Shack.

                        Mack receives a note claiming to be from Papa (his families name for God), inviting him back to the Shack. He knows there are only three possibilities. One, it's from the killer looking to inflict further pain on the family. Two, it's a sick joke from someone who is aware of what happened. Three, it is actually from God. Perhaps Mack is too quick to assume it is from God, in our lives we would probably stop at two possibilities but he is a man of strong faith and sets off to what he hopes will be his meeting with God. I was impressed with how well rounded the character of Mack was. A lot of detail is given into his thoughts, feelings and actions. Aside from the assumption about it being from God I felt he was a very believable character and acted in a way I could see a lot of people doing.

                        The main part of the book is obviously when Mack returns to the Shack. The description of how he feels, returning to the last place on earth he wants to be, is excellent and is typical of how well written this entire book is.

                        Once Mack gets there and meets God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit he spends the weekend with them in their human forms. This is the real point of the book and is magnificent. The questions Mack asks, the way he responds and acts is exactly how you could imagine being in such an unfathomable position (if that isn't a contradiction!). What really surprised me though was the clarity of answers provided by the author. They were quite simply stunning and everything fell together almost perfectly. It would be easy to say that the author can manipulate situations to suit but he was dealing with some heavy subjects here. Also, anyone who has a basic knowledge of the bible will be able to relate to some, if not all of the answers and see how they fit into a bigger picture.

                        There are many other thought provoking parts to the book as well. When asked how much of his life Mack lives in the past, the present and the future he responds, like most of us, that very little is spent in the present. Quite a sad realisation but further evidence that the thoughts to take from this book are not all religious.

                        It is quite easy to get caught up in Mack's time at the shack as being a time of wonderment and amazement causing you to lose sight of what brought him there in the first place. In fact, you get the sense that this happens to Mack at times as well.

                        As a reader you go through the whole journey with Mack, from feeling his despair at the begging right through to matching his feelings at the end, this book really affects you.

                        The ending of the book was terrific. So much is given to the reader in the final few pages. Again, it is obvious a lot of thought has been put into the ending and it fits in with the 'real' world a lot more than I feared it might.

                        This is a magnificent book and I would urge you to read it. Whatever your thoughts are on God there is so much to take from this book and I intend to re-read it again in future as there are so many message which are relevant.

                        Further details on this book can be found at www.theshackbook.com. It is currently available for £3.99 on Amazon and is at number 13 on Amazon's best selling books list.

                        ISBN 978-0-340-97949-5

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                          03.06.2009 18:17
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                          Not too long, pulls you into the story and challenges preconceptions - worth reading!

                          I am pretty skeptical about reading Christian fiction books which have been put out there for general reading - I guess it's the "cringe-factor" that I most worry about - and I'm a Christian! So when a friend told me I had to read it, that she'd bought so many copies and sent it so many friends, both Christians and non, I kinda smiled and just put it on my pile of books to eventually get to. Then last week I somehow found myself reading it...and now I can totally see where she's coming from!

                          It was the kind of book you really can't put down, yet at the same time completely need to, just to digest what it is you've read. The story follows a father, whose young daughter had been kidnapped and murdered, as he takes a trip back to the shack which holds all the memories and pain for him, following an invitation apparently from God. It addresses some of the big questions surrounding Christianity: Who is God? Why do bad things happen? How does Jesus fit in? - and in doing so challenges some of the big preconceptions people of today hold, but in a non-preaching, down to earth way.

                          This book is wholly accessible, easy to understand and will take you on an emotional and mental rollercoaster. Whatever your beliefs and opinions, this book is well worth reading!

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                          26.03.2009 22:59
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                          Interested in different religious opinions? This is the book for you.

                          Mackenzie Phillips and his family are struggling to come to terms with the disappearance of their young daughter Missy. Years later, and presumed dead, Mack is still haunted by her disappearance and a lot of his blame lands at the door of himself and God for letting it happen.

                          A strange note appears in his letterbox one day which asks him to return to the shack in which Missy's blood soaked dress is found and it is signed by the affectionate name his wife has for God - Papa.

                          Is someone playing a nasty trick on Mack? Is the note really from God? This is the story of what happens when Mack arrives at the shack - who is there to greet him and what he learns about himself and what has happened to his daughter.

                          My Thoughts
                          ==========

                          An intriguing summary huh? This is what my dad thought when he bought this book. He bought a couple of books, so I picked this up whilst he started another. As usual, there are several quotes on the cover of the book stating how wonderful it is and that is always enough to persuade me. I didn't know anything about the author, about the story and I hadn't read any reviews so I went into this story with a completely open mind - and open heart. I was drawn to read it due to my own circumstances with losing my Nan - religion, death and heaven have been at the forefront of my mind so this seemed like a book worth reading.

                          The story of Mack's circumstances is told by his friend Willie, who mentions at the beginning that this is a story he doesn't know if he believes himself. Mack loses his daughter, and as a result, becomes a sad man lost in his own grief and guilt. When he returns from his weekend at the shack, he is a changed man so Willie finds it hard to conclude that this episode in his friends life is anything awful.

                          Mack's family tragedy and the note is an intriguing one, and for the first few chapters which lead up to the disappearance of Missy, the arrival of the note and the arrival at the shack were gripping and I was fully absorbed in Mack's story.

                          I won't reveal what happened when Mack arrived at the shack but some might know by now that this book has some serious religious overtones (a bit of an understatement!) so it might be obvious who is there to greet him. At first this story was just as interesting; it brought up some interesting theories about religions, which I found myself open to and the characters were easy to warm to. Added to this, the book is easy to read - at least at the beginning - and the story flows quickly.

                          However, this soon changed in my opinion. The religious aspect of this book became too much even for me. As I mentioned, many of the ideas that are talked about in Mackenzie's story were a kind of comfort to me, but I am aware that it is my present state of mind that made me even open to these suggestions. As the book wears on, I felt the author took on an almost preaching tone. The story was sometimes lost and it was more like the author was telling you what to feel about religion and God. I realise that the book was trying to explain how God and faith is needed in this life but I felt it was just a bit like I was in Church listening to a sermon. As well as this, sometimes I became lost in some of the religious jargon and ideals that certain characters used to illustrate their points. Often, Mackenzie is clueless too, but I still felt a little lost even after it was explained in more layman terms for his benefit!

                          I became more and more disillusioned by the end of the book, and felt that the author had forced his point across too much. It didn't feel like a gentle broach on the subject of religion at all, and some of the chapters on forgiveness were hard to swallow given Mackenzie's situation.

                          Overall, I'm not sure I would recommend this to friends - I already told my dad not to bother reading it because I know he would hate the massive religious overtones that this book has! I would perhaps recommend it to my Christian ex housemate but even she might think it was a bit much. This book has a nice sentiment, and I have to admit that it did give me some comfort in places. I also have to point out that although some of the beliefs expressed in this book are quite intense, the author does make some valid points that I wouldn't expect a person of one certain religion to make; that God doesn't approve of religious "institutions" as they cause arguments and sometimes war, and that God doesn't believe that one religion is better than another religion. I might have that wrong - I'm not overly religious but that was my gut feeling that the author did try and get something right and fair. Its an interesting book and although the original subject matter of a child abduction is tough, it has a nice message that will appeal to some people - just not really to me! (Dry eyed at the end I'm afraid!)

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                            17.03.2009 12:59
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                            Answers deep questions of life

                            To start with, I don't find reading easy, so for me to read any book from start to finish is just not something I would not normally do. A christian friend recommended that I read The Shack, so I bought it and began to read immediately. This is one you can't put down! I was instantly drawn into the story. It is hard to write down the depth and detail of revelation and truth in this novel. I endured a mix of emotions, weeping, laughing, giggling, smiling. This book answers some of the important questions about life and the things we go through and witness. I found myself talking to the characters in the book as I journeyed with them. I learned so much more about the personality of God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, this left me with an adoration and love. The Shack is a must read and i have already bought copies for friends.

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