Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Exfoliate My Soul (book review of The Shack)

   Our most excellent little Oklahoma book club recently tackled a piece of fiction that served up a heckuva lot more than this girl bargained for.  At our previous dinner, we agreed on William P. Young's The Shack.  Have you heard of it yet?  I had not heard of it prior to the night we discussed what to read next, but apparently the buzz is widespread and I live beneath a rock.  Typical.

It bears mentioning that although for book club I checked out my copy
 from the library and am painfully challenged by it, I plan to by a copy now. 
I need to have more time with it and possibly read it again in a year or so.

   Anyhoo, let's chat about this.  I would not characterize it as Christian fiction exactly, although it certainly has a spiritual message and is unapologetically bent toward Christ.  It is also not all mystery, although there is a mystery that needs clearing up.  It was, however, absolutely written by someone who loves words.  For better or for worse, you decide.

   Overall this was a difficult read for me.  It was beefy and mentally profitable, so I do suggest that thinking people check it out, but it was an uphill belly crawl toward completion.  If you choose to read The Shack, please do so without the expectation of being fully entertained.  Crack it open in a quiet room.  Keep your Bible handy for referencing and maybe also a blank journal.  I suspect it will draw out of you a flood of thought and emotion that will need somewhere to crash land.  Plan on crying and possibly raging.

   Or maybe that's just me?  It just wore me out from head to toe, scrubbing my head and my heart mercilessly.  Especially since I had been reading it alternately with a completely frivolous Stieg Larsson book, my hours with The Shack were EXHAUSTING by comparison.

   Without spoiling the story itself, here are some themes that come to the surface of this book:

  • Trusting God's goodness when you don't really trust Him anymore
  • Senseless tragedy and how people cope with it
  • Hating God (and repenting of that)
  • Reconciling genuine spirituality with indoctrinated religion
  • Relating personally to God
  • Abandoning judgemental tendencies
  • Forgiving those who have wronged you
  • Accepting your own forgiveness
  • Believing you are loved
  • When should grief expire?
   Our group that night was twice the size we normally have, partially because the book already had an audience that was happy to gather and share.  Once everyone was fed (we eat WELL, remember?) and comfy in the living room, we cautiously dipped our toes into a proper conversational review.

   I would say that over half of the group really liked The Shack.  Loved it, in fact.  The inspirational quality of the story was admittedly powerful and certainly enough to bond people together over a mutual love for God, among other beautiful sentiments.

   I feel a little bad being in this particular minority, and I am having trouble putting my finger on why I feel bad about it.  The book just scrubbed me so dang hard.  It HURT.  It challenged my unnatural hard heartedness, and it articulated religious issues I have been wanting to address for years.  It forced me to acknowledge how far I have drifted in my own grief, how attached I am to it, and how much I have allowed it to separate me from God.
 This is all very serious business, you guys,
and I really just wanted to read about dragon tattoos 'n stuff.

      A few passages resonated for me in ways that I am able to enjoy apart from the tricky doctrine.  I had to resist whipping out my trusty highlighter since I was reading a borrowed volume.  Among them:

"...So to live as if you are are unloved is a limitation.
Living unloved is like clipping a bird's wings
and removing its ability to fly."

   I have to admit that despite all difficulty with heavy message, thick prose, etc, the singular result of my reading this was a renewed craving for my old prayer life.  If nothing else, Mr. Young convinced me to reconsider trading my calloused heart for calloused knees, and that cannot be all bad.

   So no, I do not flat out LOVE every book I read.  But even the tough reads can have a lot to offer.  And I sure don't have all of my spiritual ducks in a row right now, evidenced by my extreme discomfort in having my soul exfoliated like that; but I do appreciate being led back through pain and then arriving at a completely believable sense of peace afterward.

   Overall, I am happy to have read The Shack and expect to read it again in the near future.  If you have some words of review, please share!
   Also, please read  this brilliant girl's  review of the same book.  She is one of our newest book club members and drove many hours to the farm to be part of this weekend!  We mulled over the intricacies of the stuff for hours.  Enjoy.


  1. Wow! You have such a way with words, Marie. I personally really appreciated this book for many of the same reasons. If I had not already planned to read it again with my husband I most certainly would have after reading this review!

  2. I've never read the book or a review on it! Thanks for posting this-and thanks for visiting my blog! :)


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