It is hard to not get carried away and be too effusive about this book. When one has spent time with someone or something, it is natural to feel a clo...moreIt is hard to not get carried away and be too effusive about this book. When one has spent time with someone or something, it is natural to feel a close connection to that thing and, I think, lose objectivity. Obviously I didn't try too hard to be calm and subdued in my praise because one can see that I rated it 5 stars; however, I think I will start with why I don't think it is a 5-star book.
It wasn't a book that I just couldn't put down. This is usually a prerequisite for me to rate a book so highly, but at times--not all the time--I could take it or leave it.
The entire beginning of the book bored me and seemed second rate. The characters and conversations didn't ring true to me. I only kept at it because I had heard that something amazing would await me later in the book. Also, I never forgot that this was a book and a story that someone made up. When my attitude towards the book changed as it became more meaty, I still felt that story-wise, it was cliche, predictable, and even hokey. When it came together at the end, I did have a greater appreciation of the way the plot elements came together, but most of the time I thought certain components of the story weren't very well done.
An example would be the part where the relationships at the campground are being described. People in real life don't act like that, where total strangers get so close in the span of a weekend camping trip. I especially rolled my eyes over the dialog the adults had over a campfire--"So tell me, Mackenzie, what is she like." I just thought the conversations were not at all what real people who have just met are like. I could be wrong, though.
I also cringed sometimes at the conversations that occurred at the shack. Not because I felt them to be irreverent, but because they seemed like the author decided, "Hey, I want to try to stick something funny in here," and what ensued was a huge departure from the usual profound observations. I think he could have been both funny and profound at the same time, and he wasn't-- he was mostly just obvious.
Okay, enough bashing, because this was an incredible book that should be read by everybody. That I rated this a 5 in spite of the things that I didn't like, should tell you that there is something very amazing about this book. There is no way I can convey the impact of the thought-provoking and possibly life-changing conversations we become privy to. I don't know that you would much care for the book if you were a total athiest, not atuned to the spiritual at all, but people of all spiritual and religious persuasions will find aspects of this book deeply worth pondering. You must read it.
The following section contains what might be some spoilers for some people, but I wanted to mention them (being a little vague) as parts of the book that I particularly appreciated.
When Mac is telling his guests about his family and stops saying, "Now here I am telling you about my kids and my friends and about Nan, but you already know everything that i am telling you, don't you?
"You're acting like it's the first time you heard it."
The response from Mac's hosts is great:
"As we are listening to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known about them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes."
I also like the part that talks about fear in our life and the role it plays in our bondage:
"The person who lives by their fears will not find freedom in my love. I am not talking about rational fears regarding legitimate dangers, but imagined fears, and especially the projection of those into the future. To the degree that those fears have a place in your life, you neither believe I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it, you talk about it, but you don't know it."
Right now I can't read that to my wife without choking up, it so cuts to the quick.
And this about lies (not the lies people tell to stay out of trouble, but the lies we believe about ourselves or others as a defense mechanism):
"Lies are a little fortress; inside them you can feel safe and powerful. Through your little fortress of lies you try to run your life and manipulate others."
And finally, there is this gem about The Law, specifically, the Ten Commandments:
"Actually, we wanted you to give up trying to be righteous on your own. It was a mirror to reveal just how filthy your face gets when you live independently."
These were some of the interesting parts of the book that helped me personally. There were other parts that I thought were dubious theologically. I thought there was so much real good valuable stuff that these departures could be overlooked.
Anyway, the counter at the bottom of this box says I can writ almost 6000 more characters, but I will not. I must say, you have to read this book. Don't miss out on this. I am very serious. (less)