The Shack


William P. Young

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Themes and Colors
Independence from God Theme Icon
Love and Relationships Theme Icon
Grief and Emotion Theme Icon
The Nature of God Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Shack, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Independence from God

The Shack tells the story of Mackenzie Allen “Mack” Phillips, who, after his daughter Missy is brutally murdered on a family camping trip, bitterly turns away from God. Everything changes when Mack eventually returns to the shack where his daughter was killed and finds himself face to face with three surprising manifestations of the Christian Trinity: God is a black woman named Papa, the Holy Spirit is an Asian woman named Sarayu

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Love and Relationships

Nan, Mack’s wife, has always had a close relationship with God, as is exemplified by her affectionate nickname for him: Papa. It takes Mack much longer to realize that he, too, can relate to God on such a deep and intimate level. Over the course of his weekend at the shack, Mack has many conversations and special moments with the three incarnations of God, from gardening with Sarayu and cooking with Papa…

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Grief and Emotion

At the beginning of the novel, Mack suffers under the weight of The Great Sadness, the depression he feels at the loss of his youngest daughter, Missy, who was murdered on a family camping trip. Understandably, Mack wants negative emotions about her death to vanish. But when Mack spends a weekend with incarnations of God, the son, and the Holy Spirit in the form of Papa, Jesus, and Sarayu, he…

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The Nature of God

When Mack’s daughter Missy is kidnapped and murdered, Mack can’t stop thinking that God has abandoned him in his time of greatest need. A big part of why Mack initially suffers so much and feels so disconnected from God is that he labors under a number of false assumptions about the nature of God: he assumes that God is unsympathetic to Mack’s life; he assumes that God abandons people in their times of need…

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