This book came as a complete shock and surprise. I had no idea what I was about to read. I have picked up on some of the buzz surrounding this book, but I was little prepared for what I was going to read. This is one of the most riveting and emotionally moving books I have ever read. William Paul Young has crafted a very unique and captivating story of a father who has lived through one of the most horrific events that any father could ever imagine - the abduction and murder of one of his own children. The events surrounding Mackenzie Philip's daughter cause him to sink into a deep depression referred to as "the great sadness". The first 80 pages go into this story which reads like one of the most gut wrenching things imaginable for any parent. Yet it is in the context of this darkness where light shows up in one of the most unlikely places. Mac comes face-to-face in a confrontation that he does not expect. God shows up to spend some time with him. Through their time together, God helps to unpack Mac's life and gets him to confront many of the issues that has left deep, deep scars within him.
I loved this book on several levels. First of all, I enjoyed this book because in many ways it reminded me of many of the philosophy and theology books that I have read that tried to rationally and logically tackle the age old questions of "Is there a God?" "Is God good?" If God is good, then why is there evil?" "If God is all-powerful, then why doesn't he get rid of evil?". The BIG difference with The Shack is many of these issues are dealt with in the context of a story that is very moving, and very easy to read and understand.
Secondly, I find it very interesting how Young portrays the Trinity in this story. Mac is confronted by an African woman who insists on being called papa. I know that there are going to be those in the theological ivory towers who will have issues with this portrayal of God. But a few things we must keep in mind! This is a work of fiction. I find it very interesting that as Mac's life begins to unfold you discover how his earthly father was a horrible father figure. And oftentimes people transpose their views of God based off of their experiences with their earthy father. So Mac would not be able to handle a heavenly father that personified himself in the image of his earthly father. And it wasn't until the point in which Mac was able to confront many of the issues related to his earthly father where you see "papa" take on a masculine form. The portrayals of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are also very captivating. Mac gets to spend time with each member of the Trinity and engage in important conversations that help him understand his life better and how God has been present throughout it all.
Thirdly, this is a story about redemption, forgiveness, and grace that deals with the most difficult issues of life. It does not try to sugar-coat the issues. God confronts all of the pain that is in Mac's life and helps to bring him to the point of healing, wholeness, restoration and redemption. God is portrayed as a loving AND just God. Mac not only has to confront the pain of the abduction of his child but he has to confront the dark corners of his own heart too.
And finally, I believe that this is one of those stories that help people process the God of the Bible in a story that they can understand and engage with emotionally as well as logically. I believe that this book will be put in the same category of "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "Pilgrim's Progress". I was amazed at the depth and insight developed within the context of a story that was captivating. I would highly recommend this book to anyone. This is a book that needs to be discussed and talked about for years.
Pick it up and tell me what you think! Once you start this book, you will not be able to put it down. There were many points within the story where I was moved to tears and a lot of introspection as it helped me confront issues in my own life. I hope you find this book to be a great addition to your spiritual journey.