March 19, 2009

The Shack - Wm. Paul Young

This book has had a lot of buzz recently - near the top of best-seller lists for months now, and lots of "word on the street".  The interesting thing is that if you go to a site like Chapters-Indigo and look at the reviews for this book, people either love it or hate it.  It is a very polarizing book.

Well, I am going to buck that trend, and come down in the middle.  If I were rating it, I would probably give it 3 out of 5 stars.  A good middle-of-the-road rating.  But the reasoning behind that rating is thus - I loved the story, but the writing style (or lack thereof) got in the way.  So if I were rating the story, I would probably give it the full 5 stars (or at least 4 1/2).  But when evaluated against great works of literature that have stood the test of time, I would have to give it 1 star in terms of style.  And that is unfortunate.  I would be reading along, and loving the story, and laughing out loud (and even crying at one point - in the middle of an airplane!), but then I would come across an ill-written sentence or paragraph, and I would be jolted out of that world, and reminded that it is only a book.

The story is an allegory - a man suffers a great tragedy, and spends a weekend in a shack in the middle of the mountains, in the company of all 3 members of the Trinity, Father (aka Papa), Son (Jesus) and Holy Spirit (aka Sarayu).  Each chapter centers around a conversation or interaction with one of the Trinity, and an important spiritual lesson is being taught to the man (and also to the reader).  But unfortunately, the writing style gets in the way, and I was never able to forget that I was being taught a lesson in each chapter.

There were moments of pure brilliance - my favourite was when Jesus was trying to persuade the man to walk on water - but then there would come a sentence or paragraph that is supposed to be part of a conversation, that I could never see anyone actually saying out loud.  The book could have used some serious editing by a better writer.

So, as I said, 3 stars.  I enjoyed reading it, and I'm glad that I did.  I may even re-read it in the future.  But it will not make my top-10 list for the year.  Unfortunately, because I really did want to like the book.

1 comment:

John Mutford said...

Ahhh, I like moderation! Maybe the other reviewers simply favoured either a good premise or good writing. Like you, I don't think it's too much to ask for both.