21 Jun 2019

THE SHACK.

THE SHACK by WM PAUL YOUNG.


Mackenzie's 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 judgement Mack arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon. What he finds there will change his life forever.


In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant THE SHACK wrestles with the timeless question, 'Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?' Mack's experiences when he faces up to his darkest nightmares will astound you, and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. 
- Back Cover Blurb

Who wouldn't be skeptical when a man claims to have spent an entire weekend with God, in a shack no less?
- First Sentence; Foreword

 For my Memorable Moment please read My Thoughts below.

SOURCE ... A Christmas Fayre buy.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.

MY THOUGHTS ... Largely thought of as 'Christian Fiction', I'll grant you The Shack may seem an odd choice for a non-believer but you'd be surprised.

Not someone who has read a copy of what is reputed to be the eighteen million copies sold? 

I'll try my best not to include any spoilers even if that means I don't fully justify my reasons for not liking this book which, by the way, go way beyond the fact that as a non-believer I was bound not to enjoy it.

Full of platitudes on forgiveness (forgiveness being the central theme of the book) the likes of which can be found on any number of FaceBook memes or fridge magnets bearing 'inspirational' quotes.

Unashamedly predictable and clich├ęd. OK! Soooo it could be argued that depicting God as he does the author is challenging our notions of just who God is but ... 

For goodness sake! A big-bottomed, sassy black woman who is never happier than when in the kitchen, really?

Now whilst I can't say I thought the author depicting God as he did was idolatrous or heretical or blasphemous (though I can understand why some Christians might) nor did I think it novel or cool or groovy (though I got the feeling the author probably did). I did however think that it was an outdated, sexist stereotype penned by a white man whose notion of black women is pretty questionable/straight out of an old movie - I can't quite make up my mind which.

My being overly judgemental or overly sensitive? The author not using lazy stereotypes?


Jesus laughed. "I am Jewish, you know. My grandfather on my mother's side had a big nose; in fact, most of the men on my mom's side had big noses." - Pg 111


Try telling me that wasn't blatant stereotyping. And it didn't end there ...

Mack's dad? Of Irish descent ... he's a drunk but then of course he would be. Aggghhhh!

Other than that ...
  • so contrived and cheesy and saccharine as (to coin a phrase) to be a sitting duck for those looking to criticise Christian writers who simply can't help themselves but to patronisingly preach; who are unable to pen a story that isn't didactic - which by the way I thought The Shack to be
  • with more similes and metaphors than I cared to count
  • page after relentless page after relentless page of predictable dialogue; the conversations between Mack and Papa (as Mack's wife referred to God) particularly lengthy, the 'banter between the Holy Trinity what I can only describe as bizarre
  • ultimately disappointed that though I hadn't come to this in the hope of finding any answers as to why any God would let his people suffer as Mack was suffering I had come to it in the hope that it might at least prove thought provoking (it wasn't) and if nothing else, well, if nothing else, it would prove to be a good story well told (it wasn't).

19 Jun 2019

THE MUSIC SHOP.

THE MUSIC SHOP by RACHEL JOYCE.


1988. 
Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need. 

Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann. Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind.
- Back Cover Blurb

There was once a music shop.
- First Sentence; Page 1

Her opinion was that a big maan like Frank needed a big smell like Jovan Musk; it was dead sexy. Frank was about to explain that really he didn't need to smell  sexy, he just wanted to smell normal, when she whipped out a tester bottle from beneath the counter and shot him with a scent so powerful it penetrated his nose with the force of paint stripper. It wasn't just sexy, it was obscene.
- Memorable Moment; Page 129

SOURCE ... A charity shop buy.

READ FOR A CHALLENGE? ... No.

MY THOUGHTS ... Having first come across this author when I read her debut novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry, a book that 'captured my imagination, heart and soul from page one', alas like Perfect (the third of her books to be published and the only other one that I have read) The Music Shop (the fourth of her books) failed to engage me in the same way.

An OK read. The premise - an 'odd ball' shop proprietor (one in a street full of them) with a passion for vinyl finds the exact record that his customers not so much want as need falls in love; his favourite tunes the soundtrack to his pursuit of this  woman - quirky but falling short of the feel good read that I'd hoped it would be.

A slow read, lacking in momentum; between the 100 or so pages in which the characters merely wonder about the mysterious woman who faints outside Frank's shop, the repetition that sees Frank's childhood self learning about music from his mother only for (the now adult) him in turn to deliver the self same message to various customers and the fact that the author feels the need to explain things in minute detail nothing much actually happens and what does happen is drawn out to the point where its small wonder that I found myself falling asleep book in hand.

The secondary characters largely more interesting than the major, I'm afraid I found protagonists Frank and Ilse somewhat one dimensional; the former with his habit of 'mansplaining' things irritating beyond words, the latter, what I can only describe as flat.

Still, two stars; surely I must have found something at least vaguely enjoyable about this novel ... or was I just feeling more generously inclined when I rated it a week or two ago?

Hmm! 

There's the story of community at the heart of the novel and, most of all, there's the fact that I'm a sucker for the 'underdog' and there are plenty of these the author having filled the niche for socially awkward characters.