The Shack – Book Review

By. L.J

“Do I dare read this book?” That was my initial reaction to The Shack. A friend of mine suggested  I read it, so off to the bookstore I went. There it was, front and center, on a display table. I picked it up and read the synopsis on the back cover. My catholic upbringing immediately kicked in. I couldn’t read a book about a man who gets an invitation from God to meet him in a shack! But, I do love a good mystery, and this book certainly did look intriguing. So I decided to take the plunge and I will be forever grateful that I did.

The story captures the readers interest from the first paragraph and holds it right up to the last. The story centers around the main character named Mack. It begins with a letter written by his friend Willie, who Mack has commandeered to write his story. Willie tempts us as he confesses that at times even he has difficulty believing everything he has written. And so the saga begins.

On a particularly cold, icy day, Mack ventures out to retrieve the mail. All he finds is a typed written note inviting him to the shack, and the letter is signed Papa. It is not clear at this point what the significance of this note is, but it soon will become clear that it is the catalyst for what is about to take place. It is also unclear why the note has such a profound affect on Mack. Mack experiences a nasty fall on his driveway and is knocked unconscious. Again, though not particularly noteworthy, this also will become integral to the story. After talking to his wife, Nan, who with his 3 children is away visiting family, Mack falls into a deep sleep.

It is at this point that the reader is taken on a journey into the past. Mack takes his three children on a Labor Day camping trip. His son, Josh, and his oldest daughter Kate overturn their canoe on the lake, and after coming to their rescue, Mack finds that his youngest daughter, six year old Missy is missing. It soon becomes apparent that Missy has been kidnapped by a serial killer dubbed the “Little Lady Killer”. The author weaves the story of the search by local police, FBI, locals, and of course family and friends. He poignantly examines the effect this ordeal has on the family and particularly Mack. Unfortunately, Missy’s torn and blood-soaked dress is found in the shack, the very same shack Mack has now been invited to visit. It is also at this point that we realize that “Papa” is a term of endearment Nan uses for God.

So Mack is faced with a dilemma. Is this a note from God, is it a note from the killer who is taunting Mack, or is it a hoax? There is only one way to find out. It is at this point, when Mack actually makes it to the shack, that the story becomes a truly religious experience. Everything that I ever learned about faith, love, compassion, forgiveness, and human suffering is discussed in the remaining pages. The book attempts to answer the question: ” Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” And in my opinion, it does so in a most spiritual and creative way. Young brings God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to life in a way that allows their message to resonate in our hearts, in our minds, and in our souls. I learned more from this book than I did from years of religious education!

One of the most unique aspects of this book is the way in which the author weaves the story of before and after “The Great Sadness”. The solving of Missy’s murder is so unique and unexpected it leaves the reader reeling. That such forgiveness and redemption could actually be experienced is mind boggling.

There is no way to do this book justice. It has to be read to truly be appreciated. You do not need to be a religious person or on a spiritual quest to enjoy and appreciate this book. It is one I will read again and again and one I will never forget.

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