At this time of the year, I try to put together a list of book recommendations for all of my students to read over the summer months. I thought I'd offer a recommendation for adults as well here. Please consider checking out The Shack by William Paul Young.
It was given to me as a gift and the giver could not have known what a good choice this really was for me. Originally though, I was quite scared off by it. I'm quite a baby about scary things--no scary movies, no scary books. You can tell right from the cover that something creepy or awful happens in that shack (and it does). But after having a hard time making it through the style of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, this book looked like it would be a good read.
So I did exactly what I tell my students not to do. I jumped right into the book without thinking at all about what the book would be like. I didn't read the front or back cover (more than just the title and creepy shack picture). I didn't read the small text under the title saying, "Where tragedy confronts eternity." I did not have any clue that this book would involve religion, and thus I didn't know any of the controversy surrounding it. Although I will admit had I known it was controversial, I may have picked it up earlier. I really dislike when people or organizations tell you not to read something; I can read it and make my own decision.
I could not put this book down during the first 1/3 as the tragedy was unfolding. It was suspenseful, scary, every parent's worst nightmare, but it was also beautifully written and powerful. The next 2/3 of the the book describes how this father deals with his relationship with God in the wake of this tragedy.
I was raised Catholic, attended a Catholic college, and am now a member of one of the most non-traditional Catholic churches in the area (yes, such a thing can exist). Despite having a good understanding of God and taking one of my two mandatory theology courses in college that centered all around it, I've never understood the role of all the pain and tragedy in our world. Before surgery even, I struggled with the idea that I'm supposed to be trusting in God, but here I am taking things into my own hands drastically altering my life. Am I saying that I don't trust in Him? I'm altering His plan for me? What does this do for our relationship? The Shack had a beautiful way of showing God's presence even within such tragedy the characters faced, making my own problems seem incredibly clear. Despite what critics might say about it, it helped me see God in a different light, understand more of relationships, and helped me clarify a number of things. If you are open to it, consider reading it. It won't take long and if you dislike it or disagree with it, then it will just have served to clarify your own beliefs, ideas, and relationship with God from your own understandings.