Amanda J's Reviews > The Shack

The Shack by Wm. Paul Young
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's review
Sep 14, 2008

did not like it
Recommended to Amanda J by: Sharon & Ed
Read in September, 2008

** spoiler alert ** I was recommended this book by several people who found it both moving and fresh. So Mr. Young certainly has an audience for this glib encounter between Mack, the “everyman,” and God. I, however, must not be the intended audience. Despite the fact millions of copies have been sold and the book has climbed its way to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List, I found The Shack to be preachy and fake to the point of insincerity.
The main characters are so flat and one-dimensional that one can barely believe they are in need of redemption. By all accounts Nan is the perfect wife. So much so, she harbors no ill-will or judgments against her husband, even when their young daughter is kidnapped while in Mack’s care. The rational among us realize that it was not Mack’s fault young Missy was snatched by a serial killer, but one can hardly suspend their disbelief that in the face of such tragedy, the family confronts little of the typical doubt and blame so many have felt under similar circumstances. Granted occasionally guilt creeps to the surface, as Missy’s sister Kate becomes sullen and silent, blaming herself for her sister’s fate, but all in all the family appears to do quite well.
I supposed this shouldn’t surprise the reader, however. Mack has already overcome many trials, including horrible abuse at the hands of his father. In spite of leaving home at a tender age, Mack becomes educated, successful and a wonderful husband and father. Sound too good to be true? Don’t worry; the author is Mack’s long time friend and confidant, chosen by Mack to write this detailed account of his spiritual transformation. Or is he?
In the forward, Mr. Young journals about his friendship with Mack, his struggle to truly believe Mack’s story and ultimately his decision to help Mack turn his experience into a book. But wait, this book is fiction, and despite the author William Young inserting himself into the story as the gun-wielding, jeep-owning “Willie,” this is not a memoir, it’s a novel. A literary device or dishonest intent, I’ll let you decide, but at very least it’s horribly misleading, lending credibility where it is not due.
But that’s not the point is it? This book is “bringing a fresh perspective to the theological scene.” But I didn’t find it fresh or even slightly startling. Could it be that this #1 bestseller is actually dull and trite? Absolutely. Mr. Young attempts to grab the reader by making God the Father appear to Mack as a woman. Are you completely blown away? Unable to wrap your mind around the religious consequences? No? I didn’t think so, because at the very least, you’ve taken 7th grade Ancient Civilizations and you know that yes, there have been people, in fact, entire cultures that have pictured god as a woman. More recently, the cult classic film, Dogma, after a series of affronts on Christian assumptions (disgruntled angels wreaking havoc, descendants of Jesus walking among us), reveals that God is a girl!
Oh, but Mr. Young goes a step further; his God is not just a woman, but a black woman. Does that make any difference? It shouldn’t. Young is assuming that our white Protestant values will be affronted by this depiction, making his novel all that more shocking and controversial. I for one am offended; certainly God can be represented as an african-american woman, but I do not find these ideas mind-blowing. The fact that Mr. Young does shows how little he really understands. His caricature of God- for that’s what it is- seems to only use proper grammar about 90% of the time (Is this what you think black people sound like, Mr. Young?) and his depictions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit fall flat. They are neither engaging nor inspiring.
Only the scenes with the personification of God’s wisdom seem to have what this book is lacking – passion. Mack finally reveals what the rest of us have been feeling all along, anger – anger that a small child like Missy could be brutally murdered by an evil man, who gets away.
And that brings me to “The Missy Project.” At the end of the book, right after the acknowledgements, the author tells us about this special project, and I think to myself, “Finally, after 250 pages, here’s something I can believe in. The author is going to donate all of his money from this horrible book to helping find missing children.” But I was disappointed – yet again. “The Missy Project” is just some strange scheme to sell more books. Yes, that’s right, Mr. Young lists ways you can help him get more copies of his book into circulation. Are you kidding me?
And so I end this review with a challenge. If you really want to be spiritually transformed, don’t spend your money buying this book. Instead, go out and help someone in need or donate to a worthy cause.
I guarantee it will be infinitely more rewarding.
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Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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Linda I totally agree with you about the "Missy Project" scam. How pathetic that the author feels the needed to prompt readers to "spread the word" about his book. If it's good and worthwhile, readers will naturally tell others about it, without his pleas.
I would just add one thing to your final comment: "If you really want to be spiritually transformed, read the Bible!"

Tonya Great review, couldn't have said it better myself.

message 3: by Cm (new)

Cm Oh, man -- You hit it on the nail with your review. I thought the book was so incredibly contrived and preachy, I found it insulting as a reader. And you are correct -- if ANYONE wants to be spiritually uplifted -- go volunteer for a worthy cause, indeed. There is NOTHING more uplifting than that.

message 4: by Pam (new)

Pam I wholeheartedly agree. Ok, I couldn't actually bear to read the book, I tried about ten times, and ended up with snippets here and there.

I suppose that if there are people out there ready to be blown away by the idea that god could be a black woman, it's good for them to go through that process, but jeez, it's a really sad thing...

message 5: by Tara (new) - rated it 1 star

Tara I'm so glad I'm not the only one who took issue with "The Missy Project"!!! I thought the same thing when I first saw that page in the book and then to find out that it's about buying more books?!? Let me tell you how much I am not going to care if this book is made into a movie...

Sandy I totally agree with you- everyone kept telling me to read this book-when I finally did read it I did not like any part of it- cheap and commercial and badly written.

Jody My thoughts, exactly.

I have a huge problem with The Missy Project. I did give this book two stars because it seems to have truly inspired and comforted a friend who needed it. I'm all for comfort and inspiration wherever it can be found, and IMO, if this book speaks to some people, that's great.

It sure didn't do it for me. This one's right down there with the twenty pages of "Left Behind" which was all I could stand and thought was the worst piece of dreck I've ever written.

message 8: by Afsana (new)

Afsana amanda - wow re teh review. It is normally a good thing when writers state they are going to give donation to a charity but to do it the way youyou stated is dre

I had seen an author who did it better

he statd that proceeds will go to a fund put together to find this particular child and if anyone wanted to donate to that charity he gave them the web address - no mention of getting people to buy more books to raise more money

Heather C I just started this book and immediately began to dislike it more and more with every page. I decided to read reviews to see of I was missing something since the reviews and recommendations seemed to suggest it was some sort of special book.

ChingyPingy Great review - I was lost for words to describe how bad I thought this book was!!

Erica Forsyth Wow how dare he write a book and give the proceeds to the Missy project. If you can't tell I'm being sarcastic. This is the whiniest review I've ever read

Chrissy Agree with Erica ^^^ WOW

message 13: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Mcbroom Totally agree Amanda J.....

message 14: by Chris (new) - rated it 1 star

Chris She is absolutely right about "The Missy Project." There appears to be another Missy Project that is a charity, but here is the link to the one that just wants to sell more books!

message 15: by Irene (new)

Irene Croft I am so glad to here these reviews. I couldn't believe that I actually disliked the book and did not finish it. I have a strong faith and thought I must have missed some point.

Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) I couldn't agree more with this review. As a Christian myself, I was revolted by it (not because God is depicted as a black woman, but because it is cheap, trite, and "Christianity Lite"), and surprised that the person who gave me a copy liked it...then I stopped and thought, and realised that shallow and facile is probably that person's style. I couldn't wade through it, and I wouldn't give it to anyone to read either. Ugh.

message 17: by B (new)

B Wow. Thanks for the insight!

message 18: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Mcbroom Orinoco wrote: "I couldn't agree more with this review. As a Christian myself, I was revolted by it (not because God is depicted as a black woman, but because it is cheap, trite, and "Christianity Lite"), and surp..." AMEN!

message 19: by Pierre (new)

Pierre Gautreaux Wow, what consistently supportive commentary on a decidedly negative book review. And all about a book that depicts God as a loving entity who will gladly enter living relationship with us no matter what our preconceived notion of His or Her nature is. An innocent book that explores spiritual possibilities other that the God of my prior misconception. Are the comments being filtered and culled through to suit the reviewer's ego? What other explanation can there be for such vitriol over a book I guess open mindedness isn't required in life, so I shouldn't be surprised. Why does it matter if Young depicts God as a black woman? Whom would that offend but hypersensitive types who will find fault in any trespass upon the very apparently exclusive domain that is black culture. Yep, throw the baby out with the bath water. Typical of race relations worldwide, but particularly of the politics of perpetually offended blacks.

Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all) Pierre wrote: "Wow, what consistently supportive commentary on a decidedly negative book review. And all about a book that depicts God as a loving entity who will gladly enter living relationship with us no matt..."

Other reviewers are as entitled to their opinions as you are to yours. If you reread some of them, you will see that it has nothing to do with the choice of race or gender for the depiction of God. It's nothing to do with you personally, so calm down.

message 21: by Pierre (new)

Pierre Gautreaux Calm down? Even that's interesting. Who's agitated? And thank you, I do have a right to express my own opinion. And I did.

Amanda J Pierre, the comments have not in any way been filtered. Thanks for your feedback.

Chelsea the black woman god appears as explains why she appears as such, because appearing as a "father" would be too hard on Mack because of his history with his father. a lot of your review states your difficulty with suspending your disbelief, but I don't understand. it's fiction. it says so on the back of the book in two different reviews that it is fiction. nan the wife is very two dimensional and forgiving, but again, this is a work of fiction, and besides the story is not about her. it's about Mack and god. I struggle to suspend my disbelief in any work of fiction, so usually I don't bother trying to do so and just let myself enjoy the work of fiction for the story. I'm sorry you didn't like this book. :[

David Wright I can't believe you've written such drivel about this book. yes its a novel and fiction. I think you've missed the point about the storyline. it's about someone who loses faith and finds it again. If any writer can put forward God's love into the main stream and get people thinking about god in thedays when church numbers are falling andthat there is hope then, this 'Novel' is a good medium to bring god to the masses. you can critique writing style all you want. But if it gets one person thinking that there's more to life than another dollar then this book works. if you found it so obnoxious, why did you carry on reading. it's contentious in that nan is a black American women. but it takes away pre determined stereotypes. If you don't like this, don't read the next book

message 25: by Haylie (new)

Haylie I don't agree with Amanda J at all when she says it isn't believable that a family wouldn't fall apart and blame each other when something like this happens. My best friend in high school had a sister who was brutally murdered and yes that was terrible for the family. The parents never blamed themselves even though it happened while she was under the mother's care. They were very religious and looked to God to help them heal, they didn't destroy each other. Young describes Nan as a very religious woman who is so close to God that she calls him Papa. I don't think it is cheap or easy writing that Nan didn't blame Mack. I think he was describing a very strong family who knows to look for love and not hate when a tragedy happens. The fact that we are so used to placing blame these days instead of looking for solutions is what is unbelievable, not that Mack wasn't blamed for everything by Nan.

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