#067 – The Shack (Pt 3: Chps. 1-5) [Podcast]

We pick up our study of the Shack this week.  In previous weeks, we discussed our purpose in studying the book, as well as how the story is a metaphor for what happened in the author’s life.

Shack Study

Shack Study

This week, we discuss the backdrop of the story … the introduction of Mack, as well as how Missy went missing.  The questions that build in Mack are discussed.

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“The Shack – Intro” Show Notes

Chapter Summaries

Foreword

The foreword explains the history of the main character, Mack, which is critical to the actual story.

Mack and his family were horribly abused by his drunken, church-going, religious father. At the age of 13, he put poison in his father’s beer bottles, a note under his mother’s pillow asking her to forgive him, and ran away from home. He carries a lot of guilt for not helping protect his mother through the years of abuse and for killing his father, mixed with lingering anger, bitterness and resentment.

The foreword presents this as a true story. Mack and Willie (the author) are apparently close friends and Willie goes into great detail describing their history of friendship and the personality and character of Mack and his wife and kids. To further the impression that this is biographical, he states that Mack “asked if I would ghost write this story” and comments, “What you are about to read is something that Mack and I have struggled with for many months to put into words.” However, he also has some disclaimers hidden in there as well. “Whether some parts of [the story] are actually true or not, I [Willie] won’t be the judge…I confess to you that I desperately want everything … to be true.”

Chapter 1

Mack is home alone during an ice storm and goes to check the mail. He finds in it an envelope with his name on it, with no postage, no postmark, no return address. Inside the message simply said:

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

Curious and angry about the mysterious letter, Mack was able to discover nothing of its origin but wondered if it was some cruel joke. Papa was his wife’s, Nan’s, favorite name for God. Mack falls asleep holding a picture of a little girl and hoping to avoid nightmares for once.

Chapter 2

Nan and the children return home, but Mack says nothing to them of the mysterious note.

The back-story of The Great Sadness in Mack’s life, Missy’s disappearance, is revealed. Mack took the kids camping (Nan was unable to go) over Labor Day weekend. Missy, who was 6, begged for her Daddy to tell one of her favorite stories – the legend of the beautiful Indian maid who was a voluntary sacrifice for her people and the man she loved. It was through her willing death that the lives of her people and her true love were saved. Normally Missy loved this story of redemption, but this time it sparked deep questions and reflections. Missy made the connection between this story and the one of Jesus’ death and wanted to know why God was so mean as to ask his children to die. Mack pointed out that they (Jesus and the Indian princess) weren’t forced to die, but did so out of their love for their people. Missy also asked if God was ever going to ask her to die for someone else.

Chapter 3

The back-story of the campout continues. Mack and his kids became friends with 2 other families they met camping: the Ducettes who have kids about the same ages, and the Madissons, a couple who really penetrates through Mack’s defenses and get him to share about his painful childhood and his beloved wife and her relationship with “Papa”.

The final morning, Kate and Josh took out the canoe. The canoe flipped and Josh’s lifejacket got pinned to the canoe trapping him underwater. Mack was eventually able to rescue his son from the canoe and after CPR, Josh revived.

Chapter 4

As soon as Mack recovered from Josh’s rescue, he realized that Missy was no longer at the table where she had been coloring a picture of the Indian princess when he left her to rescue Josh. The search for Missy quickly escalated. Evidence of a struggle, a witness who saw a man driving out of the campsite with Missy, and a ladybug pin left at the crime scene led to a strong suspicion that a serial killer known as the Little Ladykiller had abducted Missy. The ladybug had 5 dots on its back indicating this was abduction #5. He specialized in abducting little girls and none of the previous victims’ bodies had ever been found.

Eventually a lead led Mack and the police to a little shack in the woods where Missy’s red dress was found, torn and blood-soaked. Missy’s body was never found. The trail on the killer turned cold; there were no other leads.

The story resumes with present day, nearly 4 years later. Mack muses why the God would, if the note was real, ask to meet him at the place of Mack’s deepest pain – why not somewhere else?

Chapter 5

As Mack had his reservations about telling Nan and the kids about the note from “Papa”, he was relieved to find that Nan wanted to take the kids to visit her sister for a few days, which gave him the freedom to go to the shack undetected. The only person Mack did tell about the trip was his friend Willie, whom he had to tell in order to borrow Willie’s four-wheel drive jeep for the trip.

Arriving at the shack, Mack found it unaltered. Missy’s blood still staining the floor, and no one was there. After erupting in rage and despair, Mack collapsed on the floor and wept next to the bloodstains until he fell asleep.

As Mack awoke and started to leave, feeling stupid for even coming, the forest surrounding the shack behind him was suddenly enveloped in warmth and the winter unfurled into spring even as the rundown shack was transformed into a lovely log cabin. A large, radiant African American woman came from inside and wrapped Mack in a huge bear-hug, all the while calling out his full name with the feeling of a long-lost love suddenly reunited. Also in the cabin were an Asian woman who shimmered and whose hair blew about as if in the wind, though there was no wind inside, and a Hebrew man who appeared to be a laborer. The African American introduced herself as the cook and housekeeper whose name was Elousia, but said Mack could call her ‘Papa’. The man, who appeared to be in his thirties introduced himself as Jesus and said he likes to keep things fixed up around the place. The Asian woman tended the gardens and said her name was Sarayu. All three said, in unison, that they were God.

“The Shack – Intro” Episode Resources

In this episode I mentioned several resources, including:

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  • al_and_tam

    I found you through comments on The Shack’s Facebook page. I am rereading the book and listening to the podcast episodes as I go. Now that I know you’re a fellow Malcolm Smith listener, I will definitely be watching and hoping he makes an appearance. I appreciate your open minded and thoughtful commentary on this book.