If you have an uncompromising, traditional view of God, don’t even bother opening this book. Wm. Paul Young’s first novel, The Shack, was apparently the subject of much controversy when it was released in 2006. And understandably. After all, Young took a very un-orthodox view of God.
This story of a man being brought to hope and forgiveness relies on a one (or three) main characters. After every parent’s worst nightmare occurs, Mack sinks into The Great Sadness. When he receives a note signed ‘Papa’, he reluctantly responds. Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu spend the weekend with the broken father, teaching, laughing, crying, forgiving.
This is not a standard “religious-journey” book. For most of the story, God takes the physical form of a woman. The Trinity cares more about relationships than responsibility and rules. Religious stereotypes are unceremoniously dumped by the road. Mack doesn’t simply accept what had happened and ‘come to peace’; he fights. But love permeates everything. Forgiveness weaves through the pages. Hope reaches out. Life is enjoyed, not just endured.
Readers cry, then they recommend the book to their friends, and then they read it again. I keep coming back to it. It may not be entirely Scripturally sound, and it certainly doesn’t neatly line up with all the things I was taught as a child, but I love it. I need the hope, and the love, and the forgiveness, just as much as Mack does.