The Shack is either a bold lie or an extraordinary truth. I like to believe it's the latter, but that's for each reader to decide on their own. Either way, it's an excellent story.
It begins after the murder of Mack's youngest daughter, Missy. Missy was a vibrant, happy young girl, and her family loved her very much. Sadly, that didn't save her from being kidnapped, violated, and murdered on a family camping trip. Various members of the family secretly blame themselves, but none more than Mack. "The Great Sadness" descends upon him, and there is nothing he can do to shake it. It is a heavy blanket enshrouding his heart.
It is a particularly wintry day in the midst of Mack's sorrow that he receives the most peculiar letter-- from "Papa". His abusive, alcoholic father has been dead for years, but the letter still upsets him. What kind of sick joke is this? Who would do such a thing? Perhaps... his daughter's killer? Mack wonders, is the killer trying to lure him back to the shack? To the site of his daughter's murder?
Then Mack realizes something else-- "Papa" is the name his wife, Nan, uses to refer to G-d. Could it be that G-d is calling him to the shack, to the place of his darkest, deepest pain? The thought is crushing, infuriating... but intriguing. Mack can't stop thinking about it. The words are seared into his mind, but he holds his tongue. With Nan and the remaining Phillips children away for the weekend, he sneaks on up to the shack. Only his close friend, Willy, knows where he's gone.
The shack is the same as last he saw it... Mack thinks. He waits for awhile, then, disappointed, heads back to the car.
That's when things begin to change. Suddenly it is spring, the shack is beautiful, and there are delicious smells coming from the kitchen. Inside is G-d, and "He" is not at all what Mack expected. What follows is a weekend of questions, buried emotions, and understanding. Mack learns that everything he knows, everything he thinks about G-d and humanity is false. All his beliefs are based not on truth, but on stereotypes and the presumptuous ideas of others. The greatest thing coming from this weekend, the greatest gift of all, is one of many things Mack has been praying for...
One of my personal favorite things about The Shack: it answers one of the most basic questions that people have-- "Why does G-d let bad things happen?" The simple answer: we let things happen. At the beginning of Creation, in Eden, humanity walked with G-d. There was a close relationship, a strong love, everything we needed. What we thought we needed: independence. We took it, we ate the fruit and decided that we didn't need G-d. So we have created the rift by demanding our freedom. And with our freedom came all the chaos, the pain and suffering of the world. This is our doing, and yet we get angry at G-d for giving us exactly what we wanted.
The Shack is not one of my favorites, but it is an excellent rainy day read. If you're looking for answers, here is the book that asks the questions.