Review – The Shack by William P Young

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!
The above synopsis was taken from the back of the book. My reason for pointing this out is because this description was the thing that made me pick up this book. To me it sounded like a very interesting story about a family who has faced a terrible loss and how the father deals with this. I thought it would be a family focused thriller/drama. I knew beforehand that this book was a Christian novel and I had no problems about that, as I have enjoyed reading many other Christian/religion based novels in the past. This looked like a book that I would love reading or at least enjoy some aspect of. However I did not. I have been struggling with this review for some time now, because I have a very hard time writing a negative review, but the time has come and I am going to give my honest opinion here about The Shack.
The Shack starts out with an introduction to the reader, letting them know that this is not purely a fictional story. These events did occur and the author is now relating the events that happened to Mack. The story starts out by depicting a father and his children who have gone on a camping trip. They happen to settle upon a campground where they all connect with other campers. It is all good times for the family, until the last day as they are packing up. Two of Mack’s children get themselves into a bit of trouble in a canoe and while everyone is helping these children out, Mack’s youngest daughter, Missy, gets left alone at a picnic table. When the hullabaloo is over, Missy is gone, leaving behind a ladybug stick pin. Searches are made, authorities are called, and it is decided, because of the ladybug pin, that Missy is the latest victim of a serial killer. Time passes and the family has come to terms with the fact that Missy is gone. But then, Mack receives a note related to Missy’s disappearance at a secluded shack. But rather than tell anyone about it in the hopes of solving the mystery surrounding his daughter’s disappearance, he decides to keep it to himself and return to the shack alone.
So far we have a good if slightly sappy, beginning to what could be a great mystery. But this is it, the mystery ends. Missy is gone, the family must deal with it, a possible clue is kept secret.
Mack returns to the shack where Missy is last suspected of being and everything shifts into fantasy. The shack is transformed into a lovely little cottage where Mack meets and spends a delightful weekend with God. God being 3 people – an older black woman, an Arabic gentleman and a very eclectic Asian girl – the holy trinity. They will take Mack on a psychological journey to restore his faith and heal his heart.
The Shack has made it onto all the bestsellers lists and has hundreds of fans expressing their pleasure. But for me The Shack left me with a very bad feeling, as though I had been tricked. I felt this way because the book was in fact fictional, although it is supposedly based on some truth. I also felt as though the author was using his novel as a way to force his religion upon me, I know that I was the only person making myself read this book but it was the way in which religion was presented to the reader in a way that seemed to say “this is what is right, anything else is wrong”.
Another reason I did not look forward to reviewing this book, is the actual religious beliefs expressed within. I personally felt that the author was twisting biblical meanings around in order to back up his own beliefs. I am a non-practicing Christian, but a lot of what I do know of the bible does not mesh with the authors interpretation and explanations.
Many people have and will find this book to be inspirational but I myself would rather nail myself to a cross than read it again. Sorry if that is a bit crass, but I found many things about this book just as distressing. I realize that people who have lost a child may find comfort from this book, but as a parent myself I could never, ever accept God’s explanation for a child’s death that is presented in this book. Everyone has the right to express their own religion and I respect and honour the author’s own, however I do not think the author of this novel respects any beliefs but his own.

About The Author
William P. Young is an American author, best known for The Shack, a Christian novel. Young initially printed just fifteen copies of his book for friends who encouraged him to have it published. Unable to find a publisher, Young published the book himself in 2007; word-of-mouth referrals eventually drove the book to number one on the New York Times trade paperback fiction best-seller list in June 2008.Young currently resides in Oregon with his wife and six children.
Published by Windblown Media

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© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Dar said...

I agree, I did not like this book at all. I still can't really understand what everyone loved about it but I guess everyone has different tastes and that's fine. For me, I wouldn't read it again and I wouldn't recommend it.

Karen Harrington said...

I liked this book somewhat. I understood that the author was bending some concepts to fit his theme and ultimately came away with the idea that this book wouldn't win any new souls, but instead reinforce the ultimate parent/child love relationship God has for his children. I think that was the best part of the book for me because I kept going back to how I felt about my own children and could see the author was trying to extrapolate that idea onto the God relationship. Glad you reviewed this. I don't know anyone who has reviewed it so it was nice to read your thoughts.

Nic said...

Yikes! The synopsis sounded really creepy but intriguing at the same time. Probably not a genre I would normally read, but based on the description I would have been tempted to give it a try. I can tell from the things that you have said that I wouldn't like it all. I can and do read stories that have religious elements, etc...but I really don't like preachy.

Nicole said...

That was me up above. My keyboard got away from me!

Book Zombie said...

Thanks for all the lovely comments everyone. I really hated to post a negative review, but I felt that to be an honest reviewer that was my responsibility. It was especially hard because I am so worried when discussing religion that I may offend someone.

Dar - I too wondered why so many people loved this book, so I took a look over at the author's message board. It seems he has quite a following.

Karen - I also felt that the parent/child aspect was a very major issue of the novel, but I felt the comparison between Mack's children and God's (Missy and the serial killer) a bit incomparable.

Nicole - I really enjoy books that have religious touches, but this was a bit much for me.

Dawn said...

This is the first review I've read (on blogs) of *The Shack*. I wonder if other bloggers have been reluctant to post as well...

I shied away from this book when it was offered for review. Based on what I've read here, I made the right decision.

Shana @ Literarily said...

Joanne, the reviews and discussions I've seen of this book have all been very controversial.

Don't feel bad about not liking it! We all read books like that - hopefully it's not the norm, but it certainly happens!

Jessica said...

I've seen this book EVERYWHERE, but I shy away from self-published religious books. Then, I got a copy for my birthday. I appreciated your review and will keep it in mind as I read.

Brittany said...

I read your blog and thought perhaps you would like to ask William Paul Young some questions of your own on his live chat at It is on 10/22 at 2 pm EDt, and here is the link to log on:


Anonymous said...

This is the best book ever!!!!In my opinion, only people who is willing to accept Sarayu in his life can like such story.I ll tell everyone I know and people I don´t know yet to read this story...

Trish Pickard said...

I was set not to like the book, The Shack but after reading it, I thought it was really good and thought provoking. All the time I read it, I kept thinking it needs a study to go along with it. I finally decided God was urging me to write a study which I did. If anyone would like it, email me at I would be glad to send you the study. You are welcome to use it and copy it for others.
Trish Pickard

pearlsoftruth said...

Just my thoughts here...

I haven't read this book, but have heard a mixed reaction to it. Mostly from serious Christians though.

I am not sure of the author particular Christian bent, so I can't say what angle he was coming from. If he strongly believed, say in Calvinistic theory, then that would be reflected in his writings. It is what defines his beliefs. So, he would write from that viewpoint.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that everyone has their own convictions. We can choose to read a book, or not. It is our choice or understanding even, if we go with their 'bent'. A person will always be a reflection of their creed. I don't think being preachy is the goal, merely expressing his beliefs of God, however different to ours, the reader. He sounds very creative, judging by your review :)

I am not a Calvinist per se, but I am a follower of Christ. I connect with what witnesses to my spirit, and leave the rest out.

I am enjoyed your review, and appreciate your thoughts.

Melissa said...

Great review! I linked yours in mine, too, now :-)

I can understand how you felt, too. Initially I wasn't sure how I was going to take the story but in the end I did like it, as you know :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh my, what a pile of preachy, new-age Christian tripe! So much to say here - I'll try to be concise and coherent. It basically says the same old thing:
1) Bad things happen to good people
2) God works in mysterious ways
3) Who are we to question God's plan
4) Who is this God person anyway?
It just goes to show you what comes out of a Christian when he gets a good whack in the head and is filled with opiates! Aunt Jemima, an ugly Jew, and a floating Chinese waif-type-thing becomes the Holy Trinity? Jesus, the ugly Jew wants to plant a hook in the mouth of one of his glorious creations because it would be more fun than willing it into his boat. The smells, the tastes, and the pretty colours . . . OOOH, Ahhh. Then the climax of the story - circles of dancing lights and flames representing mankind, the Angels, and, oh yes, lest we forget, the children we have . . . the movie, "Contact." You might as well call this "Chicken Soup for the Sick Christian." I just don't understand what the hoo-haw is all about. Let's see how this "revolution" turns out.

Finally, I'd just like to say that you don't need Jeebus in your heart to love your fellow man. As an ex-Christian I've experienced this from differing perspectives, but the most part, so far for me at least, loving my fellow man unconditionally as a Christian and atheist has only led to me being treated as being a bit of a schmuck. Not anymore, and I only see it getting much worse. With the type of love being expressed in this novel, would throwing all of humanity a true miracle now and then (and not just a beautiful sunset or a garden full of pretty flowers) really be so bad. Knowing such an entity is out there watching over us does not negate independence as the novel implies - we would still be individuals - independent, held together in harmony by this common, powerful thread. Sounds like heaven on Earth.

PS: In March, 2006 my daughter disappeared from the face of the Earth without a trace. Investigators state that the circumstances surrounding her disappearance indicate that she was probably killed. Her body has not been found. I was deeply disturbed by the author's - I mean God's - explanation why he/she didn't intervene. I mean, an all powerful God wouldn't dare step on America's - I mean humanity's - independence. In Mack's dream his feet are stuck in mud as he chases after his daughter. Today - everyday I feel up to my neck in it, and I don't have to be asleep to live that nightmare. It will take nothing short of a miracle to pull me out of this. Hello, Jeebus, can you hear me? A good friend gave me this book hoping it would give me comfort in what is coming up to the fourth anniversary of my daughter's disappearance. I love him for it, but it fell short of doing so. It sure would be nice if there was such a thing, except it just ain't so people.

Anonymous said...

This website is the most impressive I appreciated it quite a lot said...

I have to say that "The Shack" by William P. Young was a very thought provoking read.

After reading the book, I was left pondering several things about it – which is a true testament to the book's worth. I had several questions on the validity of some of the descriptions of God but I had to humbly admit that there may be no answers this side of heaven for how God presents Himself to each individual.

I posted a more in-depth review of this book on my own blog