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A Reflection on “The Shack” by William P. Young

Updated on May 2, 2022

The Shack is a novel written by William Young, a Canadian citizen. Young had worked as a night clerk and office manager in his homeland for some years. In this book, the author is focused on highlighting how religion could still be relevant in a world that does not consider its significance. The author William Young, seems to wrestle with the common question, where could God be in this evil-filled world? In his endeavor to find answers to this astounding question, Mack comes to be totally transformed and this transformation could be so influential to the audiences who come to learn about this adventure. In this hub, I analyze the transformation of Mack, and how these experiences changed his life.

Setting and Plot

The setting of the novel is in the American Northwest. Mackenzie Allen Philips is the main character. However, his friend and family regularly call him Mack. Some years prior to the occurrence of the main events in the story, Mackenzie takes two of his five children on a tour to A place called, Wallowa Lake. On their way, they stop at Multnomah Falls. While at Multnomah Falls, the two children play at the canoe. Unfortunately, the canoe flips and almost drowns one of Mack’s children. However, luckily enough, Mack manages to save the child by swimming and freeing him from the webbing of the canoe. However, while in this endeavor, he unintentionally leaves the other child, a female at the campsite with no one with her. Upon returning from saving the son, he is amazed to find Missy, the younger daughter missing from the spot he had left her. He immediately embarks on calling the police to assist him in searching for the lost child. The search mission leads them to discover that Missy had been kidnapped and killed by some serial killer. Mack’s family, alongside the police, finds a shack that was abandoned in the forest where the child had been taken. They find her clothes stained with blood but they do not find her body anywhere. This causes untold grief to Mack who now considers his life as being meaningless.

While still lamenting over the loss of her dear daughter, Mack suddenly receives a note, from a person identified as “Papa “requiring him to meet him at a location identified as the Shack. The peculiar note puzzles Mackenzie since he wondered how his father could want to meet him despite the enmity existing between the two. Mack and his biological father had not been on talking terms since he was young because he was abusive. However, upon careful reflection, he rules out the possibility of the note coming from his father and perceives that it might have come from his God, who is referred to as Papa by his wife (Motoko 2008).

On the stipulated day of the visit, Mack decides to visit the Shack while his family goes to visit relatives at some other places. Just like any other person, Mack gets anxious about what will transpire at this Shack. He gathers courage and enters inside, but does not find anything peculiar. He immediately decides to leave since he finds nothing of importance in this place, but as he leaves, the entire shack and what is contained inside are transformed into an appealing scene and lush. He begins to encounter manifestations when he meets the three persons of the holy trinity, God the Father who appears as an African-American woman and by the name Papa and Elousia, Jesus Christ, appearing as a white carpenter and the Holy Spirit who appears as an Asian woman with a name Sarayu.

Mack then begins to converse with God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. The conversations center on the loss of her daughter Missy and the relationship with the three representatives of God. Furthermore, Mack has various experiences with each of these being. While conversing with the three beings, Mack suddenly finds himself in the spiritual realm where he walks in the middle of a lake with Jesus Christ. He as well sees his biological father in heaven walking with angels and comes to terms with the personification of the wisdom of God. Finally, Papa takes Mack on a hike and reveals their body of Missy to him.

The length of the Shack visit was approximately one week. The visit leaves Mack with many thoughts on what actually had transpired in the Shack. These thoughts become so overwhelming that at one point, he is nearly killed by a car accident. However, he is taken to hospital and upon recovery, he realizes that he had not visited the Shack at the weekend, but that he had encountered with an unfortunate accident on the same day he had arrived at the Shack. Moreover, he persuades the police to visit the cave, which was revealed, to him by “Papa” and interestingly enough, the police find the body of Missy lying in the cave. The police employ forensic skills in connecting the murder with a serial lady-killer who is eventually arrested and put behind bars.

Reflection and Conclusion

Looking at the story setting and context, there is no doubt that Christian fiction like the Shack has the potential of passing on a message in a non-threatening, indirect, but powerful way. In essence, the Shack has been effective in regard to genre and can be used to pass on spiritual aspects of Christianity. The value of fiction can be determined by its closeness with the truth presented in the scripture. These criteria can also be used in measuring the validity or effectiveness of the Shack.

Let me admit that that Shack is well written. However, the storyline may not very appealing to many. The tragedy that befalls Mackenzie happens to shape his life and that of his family in a way that can only be described as horrific. Mack who is described as living under a “great sadness” eventually encounters God who apart from directing him to discover the whereabouts of the body of his dead girl transforms him entirely. Just like any other books, the Shack has on one hand decried theology while on the other hand offering a new perspective. However, though Young has presented some elements of theology in a livelier manner, he has apparently deviated from some biblical principles.


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