The Shack by William P. Young

July 10, 2009

the-shack Plot summary (with possible spoilers): The Shack begins like any other fiction novel might. It is told from the point of view of Mackenzie “Mack” Phillips, a man living what seems to be an ideal life. He has a terrific wife and wonderful children, and he appears to be truly happy and content with his lot.

But things go horribly wrong when Mack takes three of his children camping one weekend. He allows his two older kids to go out on the lake in a canoe — a seemingly innocent move that sets off an unimaginably horrible chain of events. The two kids manage to tip over the canoe, with one of them getting stuck underneath. Mack dashes off to save his drowning son, and does so — only to return to shore to find that his youngest daughter, Missy, is now missing.

A massive search turns up clues that indicate Missy has been abducted by a serial offender known to authorities as the Little Lady Killer because of his preference for small victims. After a few days, when it becomes clear that Missy will never be found, Mack descends into what he calls the Great Sadness. His marriage, relationship with his other children, and his general quality of life begin to suffer.

Then one day, about four years after Missy’s abduction, Mack gets a handwritten note in his mailbox. It’s apparently from God, and ask Mack to come back to the shack in the woods where some of Missy’s belongings were later found. Mack has a hard time believing that God really wrote him a note… and yet, he can’t bring himself to discard the whole thing as a hoax.

Mack goes to the shack, and ends up spending several days with God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost in various incarnations, as they answer his questions and show him what true faith is all about.


  • I thought the framing device for the main plot was very involving. I was immediately drawn into Mack’s world, and ended up caring about his family right from the start. Missy’s disappearance was told in a very tense fashion that made the book feel almost like a crime thriller.


  • I absolutely hated the cutesy ways that Young chose to characterize God. A large black woman with a penchant for cooking tasty meals? Give me a break.
  • The “lessons” Mack learned, while worthwhile, were pretty elementary and were delivered in the most heavy-handed way possible. Most of the time, I felt as though Young were beating me over the head with these platitudes, to the point where I wanted to scream, “Enough already!”.
  • I listened to the unabridged audiobook version of The Shack, downloaded from iTunes. I didn’t catch the name of the reader, but some of the voice characterizations he did were so annoying that I was sorely tempted to fast-forward through a few parts. Ugh, truly awful.


I decided to read The Shack because there has been so much buzz about the novel. It’s been on the NYT Bestseller List for a whopping 48 weeks, and has been recommended by lots of people. So I went for it, even though I knew it was highly religious in nature. This book simply wasn’t for me, though, and was very difficult to slog through. The idea of meeting God in a shack to hash out religious ideology seemed like a good one, but Young’s execution was just so hokey that I can’t bring myself to recommend this book to anyone. I realize I’m totally in the minority here, but I give it just 1 star out of 5.

4 Responses to “The Shack by William P. Young”

  1. I loved this book, and it really gave me a greater understanding of God.

  2. Didn’t like this at all. The back cover shares about how if you are going through a great sadness (like the main character) then maybe this book will help you too. But wait, Mack meets the actual, physical Jesus, GOd and the Holy Spirit. He talks directly to them all. They are real. He has proof that they exist. So how is this a book about faith? HE meets them in the flesh. He no longer has a need for faith. fI don’t get it. Also the part about “I am especially fond of you” Would God say that? Sounds so superficial – like a used car salesman or a fraternity brother on a first date with a girl. I don’t get this book at all. I thought it was truly awful And the dad reunion? He runs to his Daddy? But he was severely abused? But becasue Daddy has colors shooting out o him it means he loves his son? What? I was laughing at that part. OH about his nose being big? That was clearly anti-semetic remark. Am I wrong?

  3. Suzanne, I totally agree with you! I thoroughly disliked this book for the reasons I mentioned in my review, and think you bring up some legitimate problems as well. I have no idea why this book resonated with so many people….

  4. This is not actually what God is like this is just the authors point of view of how God really is.

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