Friday, February 20, 2009

The Shack

I've been reading the novel that's been such a runaway best-seller for the last couple of days. If I get the time I hope to finish it tonight or tomorrow. It's the story of a man whose life is shattered when his young daughter is taken from him in an act of terrible violence and cruelty. Several years later he returns to the shack where he believes she was murdered and encounters God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all in human form.

The book deals with a question as old as faith. If God is all good, and all powerful, how can there be such terrible suffering in the world? So far, I've been impressed with the novel, which doesn't fall back on facile doctrines or easy answers of any kind. Author William Paul Young shows us a God who isn't offended by honest questions, doubt, or even anger. His version of God (who the protagonist, Mack, sees as a large black woman) is more interested in offering a steady, compassionate presence than easy answers or miraculous fixes.

I was pleased and surprised to see some theological sophistication in the book. The author has clearly studied some wonderful sources in preparing this. But more importantly--much more importantly--what he is giving us in the book is something that is very sincere and real to him. The God we encounter in these pages seems to be the God Mr. Young has encountered in his faith, the one who has helped him through his moments of loss. I think the authenticity of his vision, and the sincerity of his faith are what people find so convincing.

I have to say that I struggled with he first few chapters as he sets up the back-story to the encounter with God. Mr. Young's prose is clumsy and made for slow going. He commits many errors of style and a few of grammar, and he's terrible about telling us about things rather than showing them happen.

Most of the problems evaporate when we come to the sections with God in them. And, even in the early chapters it's easy to forgive him his literary sins. You get a real sense of the author in the book, and come to like him a lot. This isn't an elegant book from a literary point of view, but it intelligent, wise, honest, and deeply compassionate.

I've still got about 80 pages to go so I suppose he could still blow it, but I don't think he will. I have faith that it will stay wise and genuine right through to the end.


Bobbie Metevier said...

I've been considering reading this book. I think I will.


Barry Napier said...

I read this (somehow) and really wish I could get those 4 hours of my life back.

Remember kiddies, this was supposed to originally be a self-published endeavor. With the way Young writes, I can see why.

I will give him this, though...on a few occasions, I was thinking "Wow, he's not a bad writer" only to be proven wrong by the terrible dialogue several pages later.


Matthew Baugh said...

LOL! Yeah, don't read it for the elegant prose. But he's really hit a nerve with a lot of people, and he's got all the Religious Right bloggers mad at him, so he must be doing something right. ;)