Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Shack

It has been fairly well documented that I will read more or less anything with words on, but even I have my off-limits material, and they fall into 2 categories:

1) The Christian novel. Virtually always twee, simplistic and generally crap, the Christian novel is to literature what fizzy cola bottles are to gourmet cuisine. The storyline is generally as follows:
Family of people who are all good church-goers apart from one wayward son who gets in with a bad crowd and begins to drink and say things like 'damn'. Much hand-wringing ensues. Wayward son goes off to seek fortune and ends up destitute; he comes upon a church, repents and turns nice. Previous friends of wayward son (who abandoned him in his hour of need, thus proving that only Jesus is your true friend) come to a bad end, while wayward son marries impossibly nice local girl who always thought he had a good side. They raise their own cute little family (this allows the same story to be repeated with the new family in the next book in the series, ad infinitum, although at some point Grandpa dies).

2) Everything that other Christians rave about. Examples have included The Purpose-Driven Church, The Da Vinci Code, and anything to do with Nooma (There. I said it. I don't like Nooma).

So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I picked up 'The Shack', a recently-published Christian novel that lots of other Christians have raved about. I had been given it by a good friend, but nevertheless spent several minutes thinking up ways in which to pretend I had liked it despite hating it, even before picking it up.

And it is not a well-written book. The dialogue is clunky and the characters are fairly 2D... the plot is bizarre (though necessarily, so that's ok) and the ends are tied up so nicely that you can all but see the literary pink bows.

So really, I should have hated and despised it. But somehow I didn't. The only vaguely rational explanation I can come up with is that it appealed to some sort of inner child who likes her stories simple and unchaotic; perhaps we can blame it on the economic downturn, the local shootings and riots, and my own predisposition to misery, coming together to create a longing for nice. But whatever it was, I quite enjoyed it, and a couple of times it even inspired me to pray (in a good way, not in a 'Oh please, let this book end soon' way), and you can't say much fairer than that.

So maybe I should give Rick Warren another chance...


bresker said...

Would a Christian novel include something like Black Narcissus or Quo Vadis? Or does it have to have a 'message'?

whynotsmile said...

To be a popular Christian novel, it has to have the plot as outlined above. Allegory is wasted.

I don't know either of the books you said, so you'll need to provide plot summaries and samples of dialogue before I can make a decision.