Although I read a lot of books, I have rarely encountered one like this. The Shack, which was number one in the New York Times Bestseller List, has been sitting on my bookshelves for the last five years. I recently picked it up. J John writes on the back cover, “This is the most heart-warming, inspirational story I have read in decades.” That might sound a bit sentimental. But it is nothing of the kind.
I don’t want to give away the story, except to say that an average family on holiday in America goes through an unspeakably horrific experience. The Shack starts off like a detective story. And in a way it is. But of a very different kind.
Four years later, in the midst of what he describes as his Great Sadness, Mack, the father of the family, receives a disturbing note in his mail box. It invites him to return to the very place where his darkest nightmare occurred. He goes alone. And has an encounter which is unique in the history of Christian literature. He also gets to ask all the angry, bitter and doubting questions we want to put to God, but maybe think we shouldn’t.
If you are looking for a Lent book, this will give you plenty to think about. It discusses questions like free will, the Trinity and the problem of evil in ways we can all relate to and understand. There are moments of unexpected comedy. If you can get to the end of the book without shedding a tear, I will be surprised.