help me think about the shack

Sometimes books divide.

Many books people like or not. Many books people recommend or not. Many books people acknowledge or not.

But sometimes books divide. Your reaction to that book determines someone’s reaction to you: “How could anyone in their right mind love/not love that book?”

The Shack is one of those books.

I know people who regard it as the book, other than the Bible, that has most touched their life. I know people who regard is as the book most dangerous to the Bible.

As a result, I’m curious.

  • I want to know how many people have never heard of it.
  • I want to know how many people have heard of it, but haven’t paid any attention to it.
  • I want to know how many people have read it and thought, “okay, that’s interesting, but what’s the big deal?”
  • I want to know how many people have read it and thought, “what exactly does that mean?”

Why am I curious? Because this week at our church, two of us are starting a three-week discussion of The Shack and we’re wanting to talk calmly and thoughtfully about it.

If you come here regularly and are in one of those four bullet point categories, I’d appreciate your comments. (If you love it or hate it, that’s fine, but I know how those two groups think about it. )

If you would feel more comfortable writing to me at jnswanson [at] gmail [dot] com, I’d understand that, too.



22 responses to “help me think about the shack

  1. I’m in the “I have never heard of that book” group.

  2. Hi Jon,

    I started to read it and got through to chapter 3 and then put it down. The characters didn’t come across as consistent or realistic to me. So I guess that puts me somewhere between category 2 and 3.


  3. Rick, I did the same thing but then decided I *had* to finish it, because I was hearing so much pro/con about it. It was worth my time. I’ll save my reaction to it for Jon’s discussion group.

  4. I’ve heard of it . . .lots. Most people I know who have read it gush over it, about how wonderful it is and how it’s a real eye opener about how God loves us. I have to admit that some of the negative reviews on Amazon have made me not sure that I want to read it. I guess I don’t fit any of the categories – I’ve heard of it, haven’t read it, not sure I want to.

  5. Sorry Jon; never heard of it either. But now that you’ve tweaked my curiosity bump…

  6. It was one of those few books my wife wanted to discuss and process out loud with me, even though I wasn’t and haven’t read it — and she reads a couple of books a week.

    I know — that doesn’t fit any of the four categories…

  7. Put me in category #3 – read it and not sure what the big deal is. I liked it, it had some good stuff in it, and I appreciated the creative touches. I’d recommend it. But I wish he’d had a bit more professional editorial help. Just seemed to go on and on…

  8. Jon,

    Guess I’m not in any of your categories, either. I’ve heard a lot about it, and what I’ve heard has make me think I don’t want to read it because some of what I’ve heard about it doesn’t sound like what the Bible says. On the other hand, I’ve heard some very good things about it, too. A couple I know have both read it–he’s a pastor/chaplain, and she is very devout. She liked it; he hated it.

  9. Have heard of it, haven’t read it, wasn’t really motivated to until I saw my pastor reading it and also had a friend relate to me what an impact it had on her. It’s still not on my front burner list of books to pick up at the library–I’d probably go for the latest Grisham book before this one (I don’t read a great deal of “Christian fiction”.). But I will probably read it–some time.

  10. I started it and maybe made it 50 pages. I thought what the author did was interesting, but the grandmotherly figure of God kinda wigged me out! Seriously though, as we go through tragedies here, we just don’t have the luxury of being “transported” like the main character did in that story, so it just didn’t seem relevant to me. But hey, it was fiction, right? If my mom were still around, she would have eaten up that book. She liked Highway to Heaven (the series with Michael Landon). TMI, huh?

  11. I read it. Couldn’t put it down during the first half. It’s refreshing to read a book that provoked (in me) thoughts about judging and treatment of others. I’d say that our world needs more reinforcement of a good, loving god with a sense of humor. There are many more aspects of the story that I thought were worth exploring further.
    I plan to read the book again.

  12. I’ve heard of it. 1), it was recommended to me on for rating Take This Bread. Sidebar: Have you read Take This Bread, by Sarah Miles? That’s been a significant book for me and my family/friends. 2), My mom read The Shack. She liked it, and was proud of herself for reading something “deep” (my mom is quite wise, but my dad is the deep thinker). But she said it wasn’t anything she didn’t already know on some intuitive level, whereas other people she knows who have read it think it is the most striking, revealing thing they’ve ever read. My mom said, “It doesn’t seem all that different from our philosophy that we’ve been growing into…”

    I’d like to read it sometime to know what all the hullabaloo is.

  13. Never heard of it but now I’m curious.

  14. I have not heard of it-

  15. It was given to me for Christmas, so I read it for the most part. I was annoyed because it was not well written, but everyone who saw me reading it said it was the best thing they’d ever read.(the gushing mentioned above) I thought it was predictable, and just “meh”.

  16. I’ve been letting this string of comments run without comment on purpose.
    Thank you all for helping with this question. As I work on the discussion,
    I’ll keep you posted.

    This is part of an example of bridging on and off line communities in
    conversation and thinking.

  17. Sally Lepley

    I found the comments all helpful and enlightening. It will help our discussion.

  18. how’d the discussion go?

  19. Lowell Swanson

    The Shack was recommended by another Swanson cousin, Charlie. I read it, considered it thought provoking and it actually helped me work through a few questions. We must however remember that it a work of “fiction” and consider that when reading. I too found the “Papa” characterization a little different, but then again . . “fiction”.

    Ps – Hi Jill 🙂

  20. hey jon,

    i’ve read it and i loved it. i think it articulated difficult topics in a brilliant way. i also liked how it wasn’t predictable. the interactions seamed real. i think it just shows God in a way many people don’t want to see him.

  21. I liked The Shack and don’t see why its made so many people mad. I thought it was creative and imaginative and had a wonderful Christian message. So too does Forgiving Ararat by Gita Nazareth. It’s about a woman who unlocks the mystery of her own murder from the afterlife. It’s a historical and religious exploration within a suspenseful murder mystery. I’m a publicist and fan of the book and I’d love to read your comments here should you choose to read Forgiving Ararat