Dear Lord, forgive me for my trespasses before I even start.
Wm. Paul Young’s popular fiction title, The Shack, begins with a very compelling premise. Mackenzie Allen Phillip’s daughter, Missy, went missing on a family vacation. No, this is not a mystery or crime story book, though clearly the author considered pulling this audience to the book. The brutal murder of Mack’s daughter in Oregon’s wilderness leaves him with the Great Sadness; a beautiful metaphor for the power of grief. Again, the author pulled in the bereavement market with his plot structure. But it is the calling from God who appears as a big black woman in a shack in the woods where the murder transpired that makes the story compelling.
The premise works upon the readers mind to examine their relationship with the personas who they identify as deities. Hurrah that the story challenges a white man to consider his stereotypes about God, but that’s as far as the intellectual challenge goes. Jesus appears as a carpenter and the spirit could have been played by Phoebe in Friends.
The cliches and overwritten segments made this a difficult read for me. I was open to the message but the words kept getting in the way. The last 50 pages proved excruciating. I could already see the ending before the author took me there. Anti-climatic resolution of the “crime” and overdrawn workings of Christian notions of father, son and holy ghost made this a less than satisfactory read. I’m guessing I would not be the only reader who had difficulty finishing the book.
That’s not to say its’ spiritual challenge is an unworthy one. I wish the challenge had been deeper and richer. Instead I felt as though the writing was so dumbed down as to be banal. The denouement was spiritually satisfactory but as narrative I found it lacking. I think the story itself deserves a better telling.
I read the book because I find myself struggling with many of the same issues that Mackenzie faced when he lost his daughter. How dare God allow this to happen? Under the veil of the Great Sadness myself, I know that I need to deal with my anger towards a God who would allow Sam to make that decision alone on ending life and that God didn’t intend that surpise ending to hurt me so badly.
Alone? No. So many others are affected by grief from the loss of a loved one that I am ashamed to say I never noticed before I lost Sam. Now I am becoming intimately aware of the Great Sadness in others. My personal writings in griefwords can be found at my blog www.jillybooks.com where I also share my readings and reviews about bereavement titles.
I wish I could become an evangelist for The Shack, but I lived in a shack and those life experiences made me a better writer, not just a better person. And that’s where story, experience and the gift of writing intersect. I’m a scribe. Non-conforming confirmed Lutheran, Midwestern Buddhist and Scandinavian Pagan I find the gift is in the telling. Music, live nativities, candlelight ceremonies, solstice magic, the moon in eclipse, the day at its shortest. Find that higher power for things beyond your control. I seek it out because I’m just one little speck in a really big universe. A flake of snow in a blizzard. Each one unique and precious. Each with its own pattern, fractal, story.
It took me forever to finish this book. I have several others to celebrate in the coming days ahead. And I’m going to see True Grit at the mall cinema tomorrow. Wait for my update. Is there anything negative to be said? The reviews have been glowing….good enough for Grandma to see!
Next up: my last minute Holiday online book gift suggestions….