A difficult read emotionally, but one you can’t put down. I questioned myself as to whether or not I really wanted to read it, once I was told what the story was about. As a parent, it is like reading your most terrible fear come to life.
This has turned into one of those books that book clubs are raving about; there are even versions with the questions in the back that you can use for book clubs. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. I just tend to feel that books that do this are promoting themselves for the wrong reason (this is just my personal opinion).
As sad and heartbreaking as this story is, I have read it 4 times now. It is one of those stories that reminds me of what my faith is supposed to do in my life, and how no matter what I am doing every day of the week as far as my religion is concerned, I can still be closer to God.
If you haven’t read or heard about this story, the premise is as follows: a loving family strong in faith suffers the unthinkable when their child is kidnapped, and murdered. A young 6 year old girl, innocent to all the evils in the world, and the fact that bad things really do happen to good people. (As a mother to 4 girls, the youngest who was 6 when I first read this, that was why I hesitated to read it).
The rest of the story deals with a father’s anger, guilt, and faith, and a weekend spent with God, in various forms. As a religious person whom still sometimes struggles with understanding the Triune God, this story presents this in a way that brings it home to me, making it make sense. Does that make sense?
Mack, the father, suffers in a deep depression, while functioning on the outside, for four years. Receiving a note in the mail that is suspicious at best, Mack spends a weekend in the shack where his daughter’s life ended, and comes to terms with not only her murder, but so much more. Nan, his wife, had a strong faith that did not seem to waver as Mack struggled to get through each day. This weekend would also help him understand how Nan kept a strong faith through the most difficult part of their lives.
How would you like having breakfast with Jesus, or growing a garden with His help? Would you even know how to approach him? From the story:
What should you do when you come to the door of a house, or cabin in this case, where God might be? Should you knock? Presumably God already knew that Mack was there. Maybe he ought to simply walk in and introduce himself, but that seemed equally absurd. And how should he address him? Should he call him “Father,” or “Almighty One,” or perhaps “Mr. God,” and would it be best if he fell down and worshipped? Not that he was really in the mood (Young, Wm. Paul, 2007, pg. 84).
How does Mack first see God? As a large, African-American woman, embracing him as someone whom finally sees a long-lost friend after many, many years. Smelling of his mother’s perfume, Mack fights to stop the tears that start to flow in front of this “stranger.” Next a small Asian woman approached him, a collector of tears is what she told Mack she was, and shimmered in a way that made it difficult for him to look at her. The third person to join them in the shack is a man of Middle Eastern descent, an obvious laborer with his tool belt full of tools. Confused, Mack asks all of them, “Are there more of you?”
“No Mackenzie.” The black woman chuckled. “We is all that you get, and believe me, we’re more than enough” (pg. 87).
So Mack has his three companions for the weekend, each with a specific purpose to help him deal with his grief, his faith, and his anger. They break down his walls, the barriers in his heart, and show him that in order to be free from his guilt and grief, he absolutely must forgive his enemy; the man who murdered his child.
This story is full of emotion, sadness, and even hope as Mack goes on this journey to reveal what is truly in his heart, and learns how to be healed of the emotional pain that has consumed his life, and in turn his family’s life, for the past four years.
Whatever your beliefs may be, or not be, this is a story to be read by everyone, whether you have Faith or not. It makes points that seem generic to humankind in general, without trying to force someone else’s beliefs on you. You understand the story, and the lessons it seems to present without ever really trying.
This is definitely a book I will pick up for the 5th time, and likely even more than that.
The Shack. 2007. William Paul Young. Windblown Media: Newbury Park, California.