Book Review: The Shack

A Beautiful Story about Love and Forgiveness Despite Technical Flaws

by Jordan Myska Allen, a lover of life and entrepreneur. He acts as a psychological, spiritual, and professional consultant and practices applied integral thinking.

The Shack is a self-published novel that became an international hit, selling over 18 million copies. It will soon become a movie produced by the same guy that did The Blind Side, Marley and Me, and Life of Pi. So, does the book live up to the hype?

In a nutshell: yes.

There are problems that will turn away many readers—the writing is far from perfect and would be easy to criticize in an introductory fiction class. Yet it is still easily readable. Some of the dialogues drag on, but I wanted to keep reading and never found myself bored.

More importantly, it is powerful and emotional. I teared up three or four times, and I do not cry often. The main character undergoes a real transformation, which is not an easy thing to portray. The story wrestles with some tough theological quagmires in Christianity, particularly the question of theodicy: how is it that there is evil in the world when we’re told that God is all-loving and all-forgiving? And the evil in the plot is big enough for us to chew on: kidnap and murder.

I do not agree with some of the philosophy, but what makes the book beautiful is that the answers comes in the form of the story—lived experiences. For example, instead of just saying “God is not male or female, but can take any form,” the character of God in the book is a large black woman named “Papa.” I admire the author’s courage in exploring the spiritual themes and ideas directly, in acknowledging that they are just symbols, but being willing to make them real to ground them in our mind’s eye.

Fundamentalist Christians who live by a very strict interpretation of the Bible will probably disagree with a lot of the views presented in the book, and people who intensely dislike Christianity will not be able to get past the fact this is a book about spirituality expressed through an unabashedly Christian lens and using Christian theology and terminology.

That is too bad for them, because I believe the book offers a lot of brilliant commentary and food for thought about love, forgiveness, our purpose in life, and the nature of reality, regardless of your religious and cultural background. For people who are open, and willing to explore what it means to apply spiritual concepts to daily life, I highly recommend The Shack.

Category: Psych

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