I’m currently reading The Shack. Frankly, I never even heard of the book until my editor stated that my manuscript, Prayers Were No Help, reminded her of it. I thought I should read it to understand what she meant and so I would be prepared to answer questions about my story if they were asked.
The writer is certainly descriptive in his use of language, and the premise of the story is a good one, in my opinion. It is, in fact, similar to the premise of my book—a man suffers a devastating loss and struggles to deal with it until heavenly intervention turns his life around.
Without giving away the story, in case you’ve not read it, there was a place in the story where I almost stopped reading the book entirely. The main character is introduced to three celestial beings. One is an African-American woman. The second is an Asian woman. The third is a Middle Eastern man. The device seemed so trite to me that I literally stopped reading, shook my head and put the book down. I’m all for diversity, but in this case, it was so patently obvious it smacked you in the face.
If I ever use a device like that in one of my books, someone please slap me.
UPDATE: I”ve finished reading the book, and I have some things to say. However, they would be spoilers for those who have not read it (or seen the movie), so I will hide them from view. If you read past this point, you’ve been warned.
I’m very disappointed in this book. I can’t believe that it’s a best seller. First, the device of using an African American woman as God, an Asian as the Holy Spirit and a middle-eastern man as Jesus (although that at least makes sense) smacks of a desire to deliberately inject diversity into the story. Then, as if to convince you of his message, he adds a Hispanic woman as another spirit later in the story. Really? Could you be more obvious?
And then there’s the scene where God, Jesus, the Holy Spirt, and Mack drink wine and break bread together. Seriously? Your main character has communion with the Trinity? The devices the author uses are so transparent they take away from the power of the story. Each time I came across one, I had to moan, put the book down, shake my head in amazement and force myself to keep reading.
On top of that, he ends the story by revealing that it never really happened. It was all in the main character’s (Mack’s) mind. At the end of the book, as he’s leaving the shack, he’s t-boned by a drunk driver and ends up in a coma. When he regains consciousness, he finds out from his wife that the accident occurred on the way up to the cabin, not as he was leaving.
It’s a little like toying with a cat. As the cat approaches the moving ball, you yank it away and laugh at him.
In short, the story isn’t believable, the author’s use of contrived devices works to make it less believable, and his theology is questionable at best.
On a scale of one to five, I would give the book a two. Its descriptions are vivid, and the writing is well done. The story is a mess.