Mackenzie Allen Philips youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.
This review has taken too long for me to write. More so, this book has taken too long for me to finish. For a book that has gotten me overly excited – I have been long been looking for a copy to buy at local bookstores – this is not ordinary. Suffice it to say that I had high expectations of the book. For one, I got my copy from my mom who was supposed to be reading it first but has been busy with other things. The book was lent to her by a close friend who had such high praises for it. Second, I had long been wanting to read it after my favorite law professor’s recommendations. Third, I love crime stories, and the plot summary of a child being abducted and murdered captured my interest. Finally, a book labeled as Christian fiction demands a high level of standard from me, but of course that’s just me.
I finished all 248 pages of the paperback edition for almost 2 months, a pace I consider extraordinarily slow in my humble reading capacities. What brought about this dismal reading speed for a supposedly bestselling book I can only charge to one thing: it was boring. Why?
- This is supposed to be fiction, there is supposed to be a story, but I find the story so uninteresting.
- I am by no means a literary critic but I have read enough books to at least give me an idea of what is good writing and what is not. I feel like I am reading a theologian’s dissertation compressed into a little over 200 pages.
- I feel like there has been a deliberate effort to at least make the book a literary piece and not just some scholarly, academic work. Some sentences and paragraphs are incredibly, boring-ly long, a good editor could probably compress one paragraph into a sentence or two and still get the same effect. Or better.
I have nothing against theological writing, in fact I have very high regard on such types of literature. But since the book is packaged as fiction, it was quite dismaying to see that it is not quite good fiction.
And I have prodded on through the pages, thinking that perhaps the book might redeem itself in the later pages, but alas, I was again disappointed. In fact, after I finished the book, I feel nothing aside from being relieved — relieved for having finished it at last. I was not stirred emotionally, I did not feel any sympathy towards Mack, nor did I feel any delight over the finding of Missy’s body. I have been more affected reading The Velveteen Rabbit than this one.
I will not talk about the book’s apparent theological parallels because I know that my theology is not as sound as any eloquent scholars out. One thing is for sure though, I am not comfortable with the book’s portrayal of the Christian trinity. I cannot fully explain what makes me uncomfortable, but I think this article by Tim Challies totally sums up my musings.
Now for the rating. Honestly, I cannot fully make up my mind. I don’t exactly hate it (because I still think there is something good in it or else I wouldn’t finish reading it in the first place) but I can’t say whether I like it too. I am beginning to love Christian literature and I would really love to give 5 stars to books like this. But well, I hope this will be the last time I will be doing this. So…
Book cover image and blurb from Goodreads.