Good news, everyone! There's an unlikely book on the best seller list and it wasn't even anointed by the celestial touch of Oprah. Instead, the book is a Christian novel called The Shack about what happens when Jesus looks like Oprah, or something. Naturally, it's really taken off due to word of mouth, because it combines three things America loves: Jesus, Oprah, and reading about terrible child abductions (Hello, The Lovely Bones!) into one tiny paperback package.
From the NY Times:
Eckhart Tolle may have Oprah Winfrey, but "The Shack" has people like Caleb Nowak.
Mr. Nowak, a maintenance worker near Yakima, Wash., first bought a copy of "The Shack," a slim paperback novel by an unknown author [William P. Young] about a grieving father who meets God in the form of a jolly African-American woman, at a Borders bookstore in March. He was so taken by the story of redemption and God's love that he promptly bought 10 more copies to give to family and friends.
A "jolly African-American woman"? Sounds a bit like this, New York Times. But still, this idea is basically so obvious it's genius. God is the ultimate magical negro! People love those kinds of characters (except for Bagger Vance). And having people imagine Morgan Freeman as God is pretty played out. Why not have them cast Oprah, or Queen Latifah in that divine role in their minds?
Surprisingly, though, not every Christian is totally behind Queen Latifah as God. They call the book "heresy" and "deeply troubling" (But not as troubling as their racism. ZING!) But Young, The Shack's author, anticipated this, and says he wrote the book specifically to shatter prejudices about depictions of God:
He chose to make God an African-American woman, he said, because he wanted to alter religious preconceptions. "It was just a way of saying: 'You know what? I don't believe that God is Gandalf with an attitude or Zeus who wants to blast you with any imperfection that you exhibit,' " Mr. Young said.
No, instead Young pictures God as something halfway between a college diversity brochure and a holy trinity of racial caricatures:
Early in the novel the young daughter of the protagonist, Mack, is abducted. Four years later he visits the shack where evidence of the girl's murder was discovered. He spends a weekend there in a kind of spiritual therapy session with God, [a jolly African-American woman] who calls herself "Papa"; Jesus, who appears as a Jewish workman; and Sarayu, an indeterminately Asian woman who incarnates the Holy Spirit.
So, basically God is the deity that is closest to resembling the cast of the short-lived Teen NBC sitcom, One World?
Good to know. I can't wait to see which indeterminately Latin man gets to play the Virgin Mary in the (sure-to-be) movie version of this book!