On a family camping trip to a lake in the American northwest, Mack, the main character in this bestselling novel, loses his youngest child, Missy. It happens when one of his other children almost drowns in a canoe accident and Missy disappears from their campsite in the confusion. An abandoned shack in the woods reveals that Missy has been abducted and murdered. Soon after that summer, Mack’s life is invaded by what he calls the great sadness, which “draped itself around Mack’s shoulders like some invisible but almost tangibly heavy quilt”.
Against that tragic background, the novel starts four years later when Mack receives a mysterious letter inviting him to meet at the shack. Mack is initially angry at the letter, but when he goes to the shack, he encounters Papa, a jolly African American woman; Jesus, a middle eastern labourer, and Sarayu, an Asian woman. The novel continues from this highly unusual portrayal of the Christian trinity to explore the themes of evil, suffering, forgiveness and redemption. Because they are earthed in a powerful human story, these themes come across in a deeply felt and transforming way.
Since its publication in 2007, The Shack has attracted equal amounts of praise and criticism from Christians (one writer accused the book of heresy in a review titled, “Stay out of the Shack”) – and has gone on to sell an estimated 7 million copies and counting. William Young, explaining the success of the book, which he originally wrote as a private story for his children, says that The Shack is “a metaphor for the places you get stuck, you get hurt, you get damaged… the thing where shame or hurt is centered.”
What readers have said about the book…
“This book was a breath of fresh air for those who find the church’s traditional emphasis of the anger, judgment and remoteness in the Father’s character has stifled any real affection or love for Him. The Shack opens up some new vistas in regard to God’s grace, love and desire to really engage with us at a meaningful level if you’re open to it.” Stel, USA Today
“In a bad place myself, and wondering why bad things happen, I was recommended this book. Through the story of Mack it brought back some perspective in my life and in my faith.” M West, Amazon
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Jesus has probably inspired more books and biographies than anyone else in human history. But which of them are worth reading if you’re exploring the life of Jesus for the first time – or even for the second or third times?
Written by Simon Jenkins
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