Where tragedy confronts eternity.
What would you do if God sent you a note, asking you to meet Him at the shack where your daughter was murdered? That’s exactly what happened to Mackenzie Allan Phillips. But let’s backtrack a bit. The Phillips’ were the average family; a loving and devoted couple, three beautiful children. They believed in God, knew Him personally, went to church on Sundays and read the Bible regularly. The idyllic life is turned upside down when Mack and Nan’s daughter Missy is kidnapped and murdered. Actually, she is one of the victims of serial killer known as the Little Lady Killer. He targets little girls, kidnaps them and kills them. The FBI stumbles upon a shack, where there is blood on the floor. It is determined that the blood belonged to Missy and that she is dead. Three and a half years pass and the Phillips family is still struggling to come to terms with little Missy’s death. Nan is devout in her faith as ever; in fact, she constantly refers to God as "Papa." The oldest daughter is having difficulties though. And whatever faith Mack had before the murder is now lost.
That’s when Mack receives an unmarked envelope, with a note inside. The Author of the note asks Mack to meet Him in the very shack where Missy was murdered. At the bottom of the paper it’s signed, "Papa." Mack comes to the conclusion that "Papa" is actually God. He speaks to his friend Willie (who in fact is the author of this book) and the two discuss the possibility of God actually contacting him personally. While he is skeptical of God, on some level Mack’s curiosity piqued and he believes that God might be there. He waits until his wife and children are spending the weekend elsewhere when he takes off and travels to the remote shack. The bloodstain on the floor is still there, but God is nowhere to be found. Enraged, Mack destroys any object he can get a hold of. He steps outside briefly and the entire area is suddenly transformed into a little piece of heaven. When he goes back to the shack, a black woman answers the door, introducing herself as Elousia…a.k.a.- God. But it’s not just God the father who’s there, the whole Trinity is inside. God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not what you imagine… as mentioned before God appears as a black woman, Jesus is an average looking guy clad in blue jeans and the Holy Spirit is a free spirit Asian woman.
Not to give away any of the great parts, I’ll leave it at that. "The Shack" is not your average Christian novel, actually it is the exact opposite of what I expected. I can’t recall any Scriptures in the novel, in fact at one point Jesus declares that He wasn’t a Christian, but that He is the answer. Mack is still devastated over his daughter’s death, and the Trinity encourages him to be open and honest about what he feels. Each of Them comforts him in Their own way. Neither of Them are taken back when Mack curses or explodes in anger. Each Member of the Trinity is endearing and left this reader feeling as though she has a deeper understanding of God. I smiled and cried as I read through Mark’s experiences. Many of my own questions that I didn’t even know that I had were answered. I find myself thinking back and snickering over certain incidents in the story, especially when Jesus is a butterfingers.
The author writes an introduction and then a little epilogue, insisting that he is merely ghostwriting the story of his friend. That his friend Mack’s daughter was kidnapped and murdered, his friend received a letter from "Papa" and that he did go to the shack and had a life changing experience there. Mack delved into a deeper relationship with Christ, discovered the location of Missy’s remains, and intended to witness to the Little Lady Killer. Whether this novel is true or not, doesn’t matter to me. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone, as long as they keep in mind that this book is not for the faint at heart. I dare anyone to read this without walking away and feeling different. The story is heart wrenching, yet inspirational, even for those who don’t believe.