What is An Atheist Reads?
An Atheist Reads is where I read christian literature and apologetics, then post a review of them. It’s a hate-read with a purpose. Our subject for this edition is none other than The Shack.
For those of you who don’t want any spoilers, don’t go below the jump. Everyone else? Let’s dive right in!
We start off with a basic background on the main character, as described by his best friend who doesn’t seem to make many appearances in the story. We get a history of “Mack” and how he left home at the age of thirteen because of his alcoholic abusive father, how he traveled about, eventually met the woman who would “save” him and become his wife. We learn that he has three children and a strained relationship with god. We’re also given a teaser about The Great Sadness, which seems to be central to the story. Then we get this little tidbit, dealing with the story’s veracity:
Suffice it to say that while some things may not be scientifically provable, they can still be true nonetheless.
Hoo. Boy. I can’t even with this.
Oh, and if you hate this story, sorry but it wasn’t “written for you”. Or maybe it was. Who really knows?
Yeah, we’re off to a great start. I haven’t even read the first chapter and I already hate this book. It’s far too heavy handed, to the point of being obnoxious. I dread how bad this may get.
Chapter One: A Confluence of Paths
We begin our story in Oregon, in the early spring and in the middle of an ice storm. Mack is at home, his wife Nan and their kids is off visiting her sister Arlene. Mack decides to go check the mail, manages to get down the driveway and is rewarded with a postcard that says this:
Mackenzie, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be at the shack next weekend if you want to get together. —Papa
Needless to say, Mack is irritated, decides he should give the mail carrier a piece of his mind and manages to fall and break his head open on the way back to the house. Seriously.
Once inside, he calls the post office, finds out that the mail carrier hasn’t even been by his home, which makes the postcard Even More Mysterious, Y’all. *Foreshadowing*
Mack falls asleep and is woken up by the phone; it’s Nan. She and the kids are going to stay at Arlene’s, since the weather is so bad. Mack then asks about their daughter, Kate, and if she’s doing any better. Nan replies that around family, Kate opens up a little, but then retreats back into her shell. But Nan has prayed and prayed to “Papa” about it but he doesn’t seem to be listening. *Foreshadowing*
There it was. Papa was Nan’s favorite name for God, and it expressed her delight in the intimate friendship she had with him.
Gee, I wonder who sent the postcard? /sarcasm
More importantly, if this child is traumatized, praying will do precisely jack shit to help. She needs counseling, not mumbled pleas for assistance to some bearded yutz who does dick all except sit on a throne of clouds. There are things that exist in the real world that can help; ancient mythology that was believed by Middle Eastern shepherds who had no idea where the sun hid itself at night is not one of them.
After getting off the phone, Mack heats some dinner, watches TV, then crashes on the couch, falling asleep with a picture of a little girl clutched to his chest. Maybe he won’t have any nightmares tonight. Maybe. *Foreshadowing*
Chapter Two: The Gathering Dark
Sometime during the night, the weather warmed and the ice melted. Mack is greeted by Nan and the kids, gets scolded for not putting his blooded items in the wash and has his head checked out by Nan, who happens to be a nurse. (She was going to be a doctor, but chose family life over career. Nope, not a christian lit cliché at all.) Mack hasn’t told Nan about the postcard and he’s secretly glad that things like the ice storm happen; they take his mind off The Great Sadness.
So now we learn about The Great Sadness and how it’s affecting Mack. We’re talking some serious Man Pain, guys. So serious, he does things like this after a nightmare:
He would bolt upright in bed, sweat dripping from his tortured body, while waves of nausea and guilt and regret rolled over him like some surreal tidal flood.
Problem. This literally cannot happen. It’s an old trope known as a Catapult Nightmare. It’s done because it looks cool but it doesn’t happen in reality. While you’re sleeping, you’re actually paralyzed, as your body produces a chemical that prevents you from acting out your dreams. If it didn’t, you’d walk into walls trying to get away from the velociraptor chasing you in the hallways of your high school turned shopping mall, turned health spa/gym. If this reaction does happen, it’s due to an outside stimulus, such as a thunderclap. It isn’t due to a nightmare. But let’s go on.
Apparently, Mack took his three kids on a camping trip. Good times were had. But then, Mack tells his youngest daughter, Missy, an old legend about a Native American princess who sacrifices herself to save the warrior she loved. Because of her selfless act, her husband is cured of an incurable disease, along with others in her tribe who were suffering. Normally, this is Missy’s Most Favoritest Story Ever, but tonight, she has Questions. Namely, was this true? Was the story of Jesus true also? And why is god so mean, since he made people die in such awful ways? *Foreshadowing*
Mack gives the usual pat answers, agrees with Kate that Missy asks good questions and says that Missy is a “special little girl”, tells them he loves them and wipes his face before he prays. *Foreshadowing*
Holy shit, how heavy handed can you be? Because it’s obvious to me just what direction this story will follow: Mack is going to tragically lose his daughter, he’s going to blame god, then he’s going to spend a weekend being gaslit by god into becoming a believer again. It’s so damned obvious that it hurts, which makes me wonder why this book was so popular. I’m only on the third chapter and I can see this coming from miles away! This is little more than sugar for a believer’s brain, when you get right down to it.
But we’re not done yet. We’ve got sixteen more chapters to go. So stop by next time where I’ll break down more of this “fascinating” read. Until then, wish me luck, guys.