Tyler's Reviews > The Shack

The Shack by William Paul Young
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's review
Oct 03, 2008

liked it
Read in August, 2008

I had misgivings about this book.

I like the author's intent, I think. But when attempting to portray the 3 members of the Trinity, reducing them to human bodies to help us understand a relationship that is beyond our understanding, inevitably the representation will be insufficient. If we understand that from the outset, then I suppose the premise is manageable.

But then again, that's not how fiction works. Fiction, set in whatever world, must be believable. Otherwise, readers will cast the book aside because the writer has violated the tacit agreement (one that every reader understands even without acknowledging) that states that his novel must be true to life and it must progress logically given the setting and the ways the characters will inevitably respond to conflict. A character must act according to the way he was created by the author, or else a reader loses his bearings and, consequently, the writer will lose his readers...literally.

When a writer successfully creates believable characters, those characters never really abandon the reader. They are long lost friends, or at least distant memories, like a cousin from a childhood reunion. And certain elements of their character will exist forever in the minds of the readers.

So when you're creating characters to represent God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit...everything they're saying and doing must be believable, true to the setting and world in which they're dwelling.

I think William P. Young did a good enough job of making his characters believable, but in this instance that's not good enough. His characters need to be true not just in the setting, but in a world away from Mack and the tragic shack where most of the story unfolds.

Are Young's representations, believable as they may be within the framework of his story, actually a good representation of the three parts of the Trinity? Do they adequately and accurately represent the relationship, the unity, that exists between the three parts. Probably not.

And yet fiction has the ability to stick with people. And for many people, their understanding of the Trinity (as if that's not a paradox) might be mostly formed by what they read in The Shack.

And for me, that's scary. Perhaps dangerous.

If nothing else, it was enough to cause misgivings in me. I still liked the book (that's what 3 stars means, right?), but I don't know how comfortable I would feel about encouraging others to read it. Especially those who don't possess a relationship with Jesus, and those who have no idea what the Trinity is.

I'm not sure The Shack is a good way to help them understand, well, anything.
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