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Conner's Books & Reviews

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Currently reading

The White Tiger
Aravind Adiga
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks
Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs
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The Bachman Books: Four Early Novels by Stephen King
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The Purgatorio (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
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The Interpretation of Dreams (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
Sigmund Freud, A.A. Brill, Daniel T. O'Hara, Gina Masucci MacKenzie

The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity

The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity - Wm. Paul Young, Brad Cummings, Wayne Jacobsen It seems that with this book most people either love or hate it. Unfortunately, I didn't love or hate it. Strictly looking at the narrative, there were some very good qualities, and some very bad ones. Someone told me that the reason I didn't love it was because I did not understand it, and therefore I am going to write a review to explain the reasons I didn't love it. I never said I didn't like it at times, in fact the writing at times was exceptional, and the descriptions and writing was very good, aside from some choppy writing at the very beginning. I thought the biggest problem with this book was actually the characterization. Most of the characters are completely unrealistic, and aside from the main character who shows off a few shades of gray, the characters are portrayed completely in black and white. There is exactly one "bad" character, and everyone else is "good." It would be wonderful if everyone was as nice as Young portrays them in the book, but that simply is not the case. (Note that I'm not talking about the trinity here, just the human characters). The kids in the story act years younger than they actually are, with the exception of Missy, who is very mature. I was actually under the impression that Josh was around eleven years old, where you actually learn later that Josh is about to graduate high school. The character was definitely not done very well at all. Seventeen year olds simply don't say some of the childish things that Josh said. I actually felt that a lot of the kids were characterized with stereotypes, always acting like the ideal child.
Now we come to the main character. While I'm glad that Young allowed Mack to show his emotional side and even let him step away from his "nice character" formula he used with everyone else, I honestly could have done without him weeping every five to ten pages. The emotional scenes could have been a lot more powerful if there were less of them and only the more painful things caused tears, because while having Mack cry about a painful moment was great, Mack began crying whenever he was feeling happy, sad, pensive, guilty, and sometimes for little reason at all, and it got pretty old. That is not to say there were not powerful and emotional moments, there certainly were, I just think they would have been a lot more powerful without those other little moments thrown in. Another problem I had with Mack was that he seemed to run out of things to say, and there were a bunch of awkward little exclamations thrown in ("I love that!" says Mack while watching people talking to each other). While this is better than having him say: "Incredible!" all the time, it would probably have been better for him to keeps silent instead of randomly throwing around corny sentiments where they weren't needed. There were actually some weird awkward phrases like this in the prose as well, that just seemed weird and added in. For example, if you read the back of the book, you will see a summary and then an out-of-place sentence at the end that seems odd being there: "You'll want everyone you know to read this book!" Sentences like these are strewn all throughout the novel: (That truly is incredible! says the book after Jesus gets done saying something.) It may have been better if it was said in dialogue instead of randomly thrown in there, but I think it would have been much better if these weren't included at all and Young let us come to our own conclusions about whether we thought whatever had been said was "incredible" or not.
Aside from characterization, this was a pretty decent narrative. The only other gripe I had, before I get on to other things, was that the preaching’s sometimes got a little tedious. Starting from the middle of the book, the story turned into Mack walking from one holy body to the other. For example, God would give Mack a lesson, and then tell him to visit Jesus, who would give him a lesson and tell him to visit Holy Spirit, who would in turn start the cycle again. Aside from a few other inconsistencies (I was under the impression at first that Mack had three kids, then a fourth was introduced, and then suddenly in the middle of the book I learned that there was a fifth child) the book was written pretty well.
Now we'll get on to religious stuff. Obviously this book won't appeal to everyone, atheists probably won't like it, and most likely it won't be enjoyed by people that practice polytheistic beliefs. It may even upset some traditionalist Christians by the way it portrays the holy trinity. I was unsure about whether or not I would like this, since I am undecided in my religion myself, but I was pretty surprised with the questions it raised for me. It stated some things that I agree with that I have never heard a preacher say (such as saying that picking the right religion and assembling for church and practicing rituals are irrelevant, and what matters is leading a good life.) However these are things that would upset most Christians I know.
I'm a little surprised that Christians are giving this so much hype, because it seems to me that the way the trinity is portrayed would upset a lot of people, but perhaps some people interpreted some things differently. But that's the thing with this book. It brings up a ton of things that I know traditional Christians would be upset at, yet there is a ton of hype surrounding the book.