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The Shack by William P. Young

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The Advocate

The Shack by William P. Young

Reviewed by Melissa J. Carswell

"Authors that write with this kind of depth come only once in a great while..."

I have read several negative reviews on The Shack, and for the life of me, cannot figure out how they came to be! This book was life changing. It cut to the core of my soul. It is a book marked up, highlighted, and written in. It brought tears and at times, laughter through the tears (I am not an emotional person normally.)

When I first received The Shack and saw what it was about, I didn’t want to read it. I didn’t know when I agreed to review it that it was about something that tormented me as a mom – and as a survivor of abuse. “How can a loving God let horrible things happen to children without stepping in to save the day?”

I was afraid to read it because I was afraid my answer to the question might not be answered in the book. I knew that to read The Shack was to have my life changed, and I was so afraid it would be changed for the negative I didn’t want to dive in.

I was also afraid to read it because it was about one of my worst fears coming true as a mom---someone taking my daughter, using and abusing her and then murdering her. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to read whatever Young inserted about that particular incident in his narrative, and feed my already fearful and at times, tormented imagination.

Most people I know say they couldn’t put the book down. I’ve been the opposite. I’ve read a chapter at a time, sometimes going back to re-read the chapter I just read. The conversations that take place between Mackenzie and God the Father, God the Spirit, and Jesus, are conversations I have had in my most painful, darkest days. Unlike Mack however, I have not had God in person to give me my answers.

In some ways I found the answers I’ve been searching for. It wasn’t anything new, really. It was the same things Daddy-God has been teaching me for the past 15 years since I started the road to healing. It’s about true love. True love casts out fear. As long as I fear I can’t love and when I fear, I can not live as though I’m loved.

This, I know logically. Emotionally, I can’t get my heart to catch up. I can’t get beyond, “But how do I love a God ---and continue to call him “Daddy”---when he let bad things happen to me? If He let bad things happen to me, and other children right at this moment, how can I trust Him to take care of my daughter?”

I once read in an introduction to a C.S. Lewis book that stated, “rarely do we learn anything new, we simply are reminded of what we already know.” The Shack is proof of that. William Young wrote of things I have learned in my healing journey as a survivor. Passages in the book are entries that could have been taken from my journals. And yet, here I am again, at the deepest layer of questioning, a layer I entered when I entered motherhood. Unlike Mack, The Great Sadness still hovers over me.

With The Shack, I have the truths I need to cling to during this time of questioning and fear, compactly written and easily accessible. I will keep this book by my bed and read and re-read it, reminding myself each night of the logic with which I need my heart to grasp, focusing on that instead of imagined horror.

Authors that write with this kind of depth come only once in a great while - - C.S. Lewis, Hannah Hurnard - - and as a result, some of us are so spiritually impacted that we look back on the book as one of those great milestones in our relationship with our Daddy-God. The Shack will be one of those books for me.

In an interview, Mr Young answered my question of, “What did you have to go through to reach the truth of the book? Truths such as you write do not come easily. I’d like to hear how God personally showed you these things so you could in turn write about them and touch people’s lives?.” He stated that the weekend in The Shack was a summary of an 11 year journey he had. This makes the book even more beautiful to me. The author isn’t writing some glib, made up story that sounds nice and comforting—he has written from his own questions and wrestlings with God. This is a book born from pain, and that is the type of book I can relate to on deep soul level.

I can’t help but wonder if the biggest critics of this book have never been through the deep journey of doubt and faith that this book portrays. For those who haven’t had to come to a place as hauntingly beautiful and heart-wrenchingly painful as The Shack, and can only approach this book from a literary or theological standpoint, then yes, I can see how criticisms abound. It’s hard to take in and grasp and might seem downright fanciful to some.

However, for those of us that have been to the Shack, and still have more trips to take, this is a book that strikes chords with us that will resound until the day we can go beyond the waterfall and join those that have gone before, including the Savior that was with us, even in our most horrific moments.

PS. One final thought. As far as the criticism of God appearing in female form, honestly, is that even more shocking than God, the King of Kings, appearing as an infant?

Melissa J. CarswellMelissa J. Carswell: Melissa is a Board Certified Christian Counselor. However, due to the appearance of a little bundle of Miracle in the past year, the counseling practice is now on indefinite hold. Instead, Melissa has entered the world of freelance writing from home. She is currently one of the content writers for TotallyHer.com (to be launched in September of 2008). Melissa has a passion for mentoring teen girls and young women and does so whenever possible. Her heart longing, along with her husband, is to use her education and credentials someday to have a home full of abandoned, abused, and terminally ill childen. They are still waiting for God's hand to unfold that particular chapter of their lives. When Melissa isn't changing diapers, doing laundry, cooking meals, mentoring the afore-mentioned young women, tending to her garden, being her husband's biggest fan, and soaking in every cuddly moment with her daughter, she reads and she writes. It is not unusual to see 2-3 books laying around the house at any given time and the hard drive to her computer houses several partially-written manuscripts to the secret dreamed-of-published books Melissa hopes for in the future. You can check out A Weak Rose here.