Monday, February 18, 2008

The Shack

....not the newly acquired Phoenix Suns player.

No, this is a novel, another "Christian fiction" novel, of dubious literary quality. I can't believe we picked two in a row. What is becoming of our book club? Where are the ideals and standards we once held ourselves to?

Maybe this is the margarita talking...I ate fajitas tonight and D's at class.

To back up a bit, at the women's retreat last month, we had a book table of recommended reads from our speaker. The Shack was one of those books. It was touted by the speaker, quoting Eugene Peterson's compliment, that this had the potential to be our generation's Pilgrim's Progress. That's pretty high praise and though Bunyan's prose is not really my cup of tea, the concepts and imagery of that book has had lasting impact on both the Christian and literary landscapes.

This will not have the same effect, I predict.

The Shack centers around Mack Phillips, a middle-aged father in the midst of a four-year Great Sadness after the abduction and brutal murder of his youngest daughter. The italics are not mine; they set off The Great Sadness each time in the novel. (I tend not to like those kind of call-attention-to-me devices that are artifically trying to make up for lameness. Maybe it's the years of reading high schoolers essays. In blogs it's okay.) One winter day, Mack finds a mysterious note in his mailbox, calling him to return to the shack in the Oregon woods where his daughter, whose body was never recovered, is believed to have been murdered. It's simply signed, "Papa," the name Mack's wife uses to refer to God. Mack, who has major daddy issues, thinks this is either a horrible prank, a taunt by Missy's killer, or actually God himself and decides to head up to the shack, alone, for a face-to-face encounter.

Once you get to this point, the novel does pick up. And there are some great lines in the conversations between God (turns out He did send the note) and Mack as Mack struggles to regain his trust in God despite the existence of tragedy, pain, and evil in this world. Mack sees God interacting in relationship through the three personifications of the Trinity which blows his idea of relationship out of the water. (He gets to walk on water with Jesus too!) I especially appreciated the discussion of fear and imagination and how we label good and evil so arbitrarily to keep ourselves comfortable and protected. The contrast between expectancy vs. expectation and respond vs. responsibility reveal how sin has corrupted our relationships (I did have a bit of DC Talk "Luv is a Verb" running through my head in that chapter.)

There's a swelling of interest in this book from blogs, websites, podcasts, and rumors of a movie in the works. I know of someone leading their small group through the book, chapter by chapter. I could see a Bible class discussing some of the conversations and arguments that Mack has with God.

I'm hosting book club this time and I'm sure we'll enjoy discussing this one; we almost always do. And I think I'll make scones this time.


patti said...

Okay....IIIIIIII-CK!!!! (thats ick in three syllables)

now that that is out of the way...seriously you are a review writer in disguise!

My favorite Amy-ism of this blog is..." That's pretty high praise and though Bunyan's prose is not really my cup of tea...." Oh its as if you are talking yourself.

Leslie said...

darn you, Amy F! Like I had any spare time before, but now I'm preoccupied with populating my "bookshelf". Ugh! ;)

Vicki Taylor said...

I really like the way you think! When I retire, I'm joining a book club (but only if they serve margaritas).