THE SHACK By William P. Young Published by: Windblown Media Publication Date: May, 2007 Price: $14.99 248 Pages ISBN-13: 9780964729230 Five Star Rating *****
BORN IN GRANDE PRAIRIE, ALBERTA CANADA, MAY 11, 1955 RAISED BY MISSIONARY PARENTS LIVED HIS EARLY LIFE AMONG THE DANI TRIBE WORKED HIS WAY THROUGH BIBLE COLLEGE GRADUATED SUMMA CUM LAUDE FROM WARNER PACIFIC COLLEGE IN PORTLAND, OREGON MARRIED TO KIM WARREN HAS ALWAYS BEEN A WRITER, INCLUDING SONGS, POETRY, SHORT STORIES, OR NEWSLETTERS THE SHACK WAS A STORY HE WROTE FOR HIS 6 CHILDREN AT HIS WIFE’S SUGGESTION WITH NO INTENTION TO PUBLISH HIS CHILDREN, WIFE AND FRIENDS URGED HIM TO MAKE THE BOOK PUBLIC PAUL IS A DEEPLY RELIGIOUS PERSON HE IS NOW THE AUTHOR OF THE SINGLE MOST SURPRISING BOOK OF 2008, AND ARGUABLY THE MOST PHENOMENAL BOOK IN THE HISTORY OF LITERATURE IN WESTERN CIVILIZATION
THE SHACK ORIGINALLY A BOOK/PAMPHLET HE TOOK TO KINKOS TO PUBLISH FOR CHILDREN, WAS PICKED UP AND PUBLISHED BY 2 OF HIS FRIENDS, WAYNE JACOBSEN AND BRAD CUMMING WHO FORMED WINDBLOWN MEDIA FOR THE EXCLUSIVE PURPOSE TO SELF PUBLISH THE SHACK THIS BOOK HAS GONE FROM A HOBBY, TO GARAGE SELLER, TO BEST SELLER THE SHACK HAS RISEN TO BECOME THE #1 BEST SELLING PAPERBACK IN AMERICA HAS BEEN ON THE TOP 50 USA TODAY’S BEST-SELLING BOOKS FOR OVER 20 WEEKS THERE ARE NOW 1.2 MILLION COPIES IN PRINT FAITHWORDS, A DIVISION OF HACHETTE BOOK GROUP SIGNED AS A CO-PUBLISHER WITH WINDBLOWN HACHETTE HAS AGREED TO A 500,000 COPY PRESS RUN IN JUNE 2008 AND A MARKETING CAMPAIGN IN THE SECULAR MARKET IN JULY, 2008 THE BOOK MAY BE MADE INTO A MOVIE
“Now Sarayu paused before answering. ‘You humans, so little in your own eyes. You are truly blind to your own place in the Creation. Having chosen the ravaged path of independence, you don’t even comprehend that you are dragging the entire Creation along with you.’ She shook her head and the wind sighed through the trees nearby. ‘So very sad, but it won’t be this way forever.”
It is rare that I am completely taken by surprise when I read a new book, or at least a book that is new to me. When publishers send advanced copies to be reviewed they also send packets of information about the book, the author and other reviews. By the time I read most of the books that I am sent, I am already writing the review in my head and I have a pretty good idea of what that book, the author and the theme of my review is going to be. With book trailers on You Tube, commercials on televisions, the endless parade of authors on talk shows, and the promotional materials that accompany books, it is rare indeed that the contents of a small, but emotionally powerful and moving book takes me completely off guard. It is even more surprising when I receive a book that is self published that the book is actually a polished, well written, sophisticated, thought provoking product that other reviewers have compared with Pilgrim’s Progress, or any other such benchmarks of classic literature. There is no doubt about it, this book is a five-star winner, maybe 6, that came as a complete and utter surprise to me. This modern day religious parable reminds me of the feeling that I had the first time that I read Paulo Coelho‘s masterpiece, The Alchemist. It is a small, compact story that provokes the depth of thought, and the range of emotions that well-written books were meant to provoke; when reading is truly the best experience. This book, like all masterpieces of literature, is the reason most of us love to read in the first place. I promise you, reading this book could change you life.
The Shack begins 4 years before the actual story begins when Missy, the daughter of Mack (Mackenzie) Phillips is abducted during a family vacation. Her body is never found, but the police found evidence in an abandoned shack proving that the girls was brutally murdered by a notorious serial killer who’s specialty is preying on young girls. The story begins when Mack, who has been living in the shadow of what Young calls his, “Great Sadness,” receives a note from God, inviting him to return to this same shack for a get together, a long encounter with the Holy Trinity. (Paul told me in an interview that the shack is a metaphor for all the evil done to him over the years, for the ugly dark place that seemed beyond God’s healing reach).
After much internal debate, Mack returns to The Shack to be greeted by a matronly large and earthy African-American woman known as Papa, an anthropomorphism of God The Father. He is introduced to the 2 other characters of Jesus, (Abba), a middle aged Jewish man with a prominent nose, and The Holy Spirit (Sarayu), a gentle wind represented by a small, delicate woman of Asian descent. The book is mainly an internal dialogue between Mack and these delightful characters. The key to the book is the revelations that come from the 3 in their conversations with Mack and with each other. The topics that are covered in the book seem to me to be revelations and disclosures to Mack concerning his suffering over his daughter’s loss and the mistrust that he has for a God who allowed his daughter to suffer and die in such a horrifying way. It is as if Mack is being given secret pieces of a jigsaw puzzle to assemble in order to explain the unexplainable aspects of his life; a picture once assembled that shows where all the pieces fit. It is revealed to Mack that God is inherently good and belief in his goodness is the only way to understand and trust in God. The evil in life comes from man and other sources. It is good that is absolute; evil only exists as a contrast to that which is good, sort of a measure to determine what is good. All understanding of God stems from our relationships, not only with God but with other men, with other women, and in our special interpersonal relationships.
The original thought and themes that arise from the book are religiously unorthodox and thought-provoking.
(1) The Path to Enlightenment: “legalistic” organized religion, denominations, and doctrines are not necessary to find God’s love and to affect a rebirth. You can discover Jesus’ love inside of yourself and in your relationships with other people, particularly with the loving relationships that exist in your life;
(2) The Trinity: There is no real hierarchy or chain of command in this group, but they are in a loving circle of relationship, a ‘great chain of being.’ There is also a greater understanding of the human condition that exists within the Trinity. The three are a necessary precondition to all love that exists, and this is the love that all humans seek, even from each other. It is the relationship of the 3, and their relationship to each other that gives birth and is the genesis of all love that exists between men and women.
(3) Submission: Takes on a whole new meaning in this book, submission becomes devotion, love and respect. The three are submitted or in a relationship with each that they wish to share with Mack. They in turn submit or acknowledge the love and respect that they have for him. To experience this submission correctly, the feelings must be mutual; to regard each others concerns to be as significant as your own. Hierarchy is unnecessary.
(4) Free Will: Jesus tells Mack “I want brothers and sisters who will share life with me.” He indicates that he does not want slaves to do his will. The choice to accept God is available to man, but not forced upon him. The Shack seems to indicate that man has been forgiven for sins and can choose to have a relationship with him. Consequences for the failure to choose are not discussed, but you get an impression that like Mack, man left to his own devices has chosen the consequences of his own actions, to be lost and without any true peace
(5) Forgiveness: The story’s main focus seems to be place on forgiveness. Mack has to first forgive God for the loss of his daughter or at least come to some understanding why God could not intervene to save Missy, perhaps to forgive even her killer. The book seems to expose an unconditional forgiveness, a forgiveness where God has already, long ago forgiven man and offers the opportunities to recognize him through our relationships with others, and to accept the unconditional love and forgiveness as authentic. The mere acceptance of his love and forgiveness affects reconciliation.
(6) Revelation: Both the message that there is a God and that he offers unconditional love and acceptance are messages that are not static or found in the Bible alone. The Shack seems to indicate that there are voices of revelation that call to us everyday if we learn to recognize the “still, small voices.” Revelation comes from within ourselves, from our own voice, and from the voices of the people around us, especially those with whom we are involved in interpersonal relationships; the closer the relationship, the more pronounced and recognizable the voice. This includes your relationship with the Spirit aspect of the tribune. Your relationship with her, gives you the ability to recognize the voice; the more practice you have at paying attention to it, the easier it becomes to recognize. You can also find the voice by observations of your environment. Art, music, science, other people, nature, joy, sorrow are messengers of such a revelation. The Bible is also recognized as a method of communication, but Mack learns that communication also occurs outside of the box and that God’s attempts to communicate with man are persistent and cannot solely be contained in “a box.”
(7) Salvation: The Shack seems to point to a quasi-universal salvation. The acceptance and transformation does not necessarily come from being a Christian alone, there appear to be other paths that can lead one to God.
(8) Politics, Religion and Economics: These are referred to as “man-created trinity of errors that ravage the earth” deceiving us. The book indicates that these things are distractions that lead to falsehoods and not the true path to enlightment.
Needless to say, Paul Young’s modern day interpretation of theology has some of the organized church up in arms. Theologians have called the book “deeply subversive,” “spiritually incorrect,” and “dangerous.” Some have gone as far as to say that “if you haven’t read The Shack, don’t!” I’m not a theologian, but if you are a conservative, strict constructionist of scripture, this book may not be for you. Please be aware that there is controversy that surrounds the book. Paul Young has indicated that he has no desire to “duke it out in a cage-match” with the organized church; the book is more of a recounting of a journey of self discovery and original thought than a new wave religion to be feared. Pulling people away from churches is not the point; sharing the findings of the journey is the point.
With that caveat, I found the book to be brilliant. The obvious metaphor for a journey into the past to unravel the secrets of the universe is handled in a revealing, sensitive way that is incredibly emotional. The distant, judgmental god of Mack’s youth is discarded for a more accepting, loving God; one who gives you the tools and the hope to heal all the items you have placed in your own Shack. Young’s book is a soaring, surprising success. His own story told in an allegory like form of overcoming the ill that has been done him in his life as well as the ill he has done to himself, makes Mack a figure that most of us clearly identify with. This jigsaw puzzle has more than enough pieces to make it interesting reading. The courage that it must have taken Paul Young to make such a self-examination and to write this book for his children must have been difficult enough; the decision to share his thoughts with the rest of us was inspired. In an America, where only 3 of 10 people attend weekly worship services, and literally millions are ignorant of the Bible, The Shack offers comfort and revelation to those who struggle with pain. A fluid and dynamic depiction of a relationship with God and with each other, The Shack is the most original book of 2008. If you have an open mind and are not easily offended by out the box thinking, The Shack offers a doorway to “a free and open life full of love and empty of all secrets.” This is a wonderful little book that friends give to friends. This is literature at its best, a treasure. A great read from a new voice, The Shack receives my highest recommendation.
NEW INTERVIEW FROM THE ENTERTAINMENT CRITIC: WILLIAM P. YOUNG, AUTHOR OF THE SHACK
Please check out the new interview by James Myers, The Entertainment Critic, of Author William P. Young, About His New, Surprise Top Selling Book, The Shack.
From The Publisher: Mackenzie Allen Philips' 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 that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment 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.
"The Shack is the most absorbing work of fiction I've read in many years. My wife and I laughed, cried and repented of our own lack of faith along the way. The Shack will leave you craving for the presence of God." — Michael W. Smith, Recording Artist
This interview is available exclusively on The Entertainment Critic Magazine, found at http://www.theentertainmentcriticmagazine.com/. To listen to the interview: To access the interview, look under the Interview section. Click on the wavy lines in the top right hand corner to stop the music, and then click on the MP3 player in the lower left corner. You'll see the interview listed, click on Paul’s name in the player, the interview will take a moment to download and then will begin playing Enjoy the interview, and please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how you liked the interview and if there is anything we can do to improve our process. This interview is in 2 parts.
This could be the book of the year and is a one of a kind publishing phenomena in the history of modern book publishing