the shack - my review

That the newest Christian culture blockbuster sported shiny endorsements from Michael W. Smith and Wynonna Judd almost had me quitting before I started. But Eugene Peterson’s reassuring quote (plus the predictable rumors of heresy) drove me in to the William P. Young novel about a father who faces God after losing his little girl.

Theologically, The Shack has been condemned by everyone from Mark Driscoll to the review panel (“Trojan horse subtly infiltrating the Christian community”). But what first caught me was the writing. Its opening words sketched wind and color with a soft touch, a paragraph of hope breaking the clouds of Christian mediocrity. No sunshine followed. As quickly as it began, the weather froze into painfully unrealistic dialogue, belabored scenes, and complete loss of point-of-view, that clever tool invented by writers to provide characterization via appropriately framed perspective.

Trudging past overt lines underlining the writer’s agenda (“This came as a shock to Mack’s religious system”), some nicely constructed themes still emerge. Young’s representation of God the Father as a large, generous Black woman is effective reminder of God essential gender neutrality. That she is “especially fond of” both Mack—and every other person she’s made—brings a smile, and seems just about right. And I like the Holy Spirit portrayed in Sarayu’s wildflower garden: chaos from within but an intricate fractal pattern from above.

I find no heart-stopping theological points insidiously poised to hijack orthodoxy. Still, poor attempts at plot (reconciling with a father we’ve never met?) and a slew of eye-roll chapter titles don’t add up to a new generation’s Pilgrims Progress (sorry Eugene) as much as a novel hastily nailed together and soon to be left forgotten in the woods.