Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Shack - A Review

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The Shack, by William P. Young, is a book that made waves a couple of years ago. It seemed particularly popular amongst Christians, and was perhaps viewed as a way to present the Christian god in a more palatable way. I got the feeling that many Christians thought that finally, here was a book that described the loving personality of their god, and that if only you would read it with an open mind you too might understand how wonderful their god is. (Which of course dodges one of my main concerns with religion: a lack of evidence. Describing a wonderful deity and religion is a nice story, but it doesn’t mean anything until there is some evidence to support one’s claim that it is true). I read the book carefully after having been given a copy by a Christian. I found it disturbing on a number of levels, and when I sat down to write a review of it, the following is the most honest and factual review I could come up with that actually fit with the facts of the story:

The Shack is a gruesome and twisted story of familial murder, written with deep psychological undertones. The protagonist, Mackenzie Philips (“Mac” as he is known), murders his young daughter, Missy, though throughout the book he fails to recognize his guilt or acknowledge his crime due to his severe psychoses. Initially the reader is also misled to believe Mac’s innocence and the story unfolds as an abduction-murder mystery. But it soon becomes apparent that Mac himself is the perpetrator, as his psychoses become apparent. Young brilliantly leads the reader through Mac’s tormented schizophrenic mind as he deals with his genuine grief and subconscious guilt. Written with a sympathetic tone towards the protagonist, and with a detailed journey through his warped mind, Young almost manages to convince the reader of Mac’s innocence, such is his own deranged conviction. During the story Mac proceeds through several stages of grief, becoming stalled in bargaining during which he endures a lengthy delusion of a personal relationship with a deity who him/herself suffers from multiple personality disorder. He revisits the scene of his daughter’s murder, and eventually leads authorities to her body as he slowly comes to terms with her loss. Eerily, Young leaves the reader with no resolution of Mac’s tormented mind. Indeed Mac even finds acceptance and resolution about the loss of his daughter, while still deluding himself that he was not the killer. The authorities lack enough evidence for a conviction and the story ends in suspense of anticipating Mac’s future violence as his psychosis remains unresolved and unrecognized.

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