Summit Entertainment picked up film adaptation rights to William Paul Young’s novel The Shack, a year ago, which is to be to be adapted to script by John Fusco, produced by Gill Netter and Brad Cummings.
The story follows a character named Mackenzie Allen Philips who, after suffering a devastating personal tragedy, receives a mysterious note from God in his mailbox inviting him to a place called The Shack. He visits the shack where he actually does meet God, which begins a life-transforming journey of redemption.
The book was published in 2007 and went on to become a global bestseller, selling over 18 million copies in 39 languages.
Long-time readers of this blog will remember that, way back in 2008, I profiled the novel, after I stumbled across a write-up for it, while skimming through archived pages of the New York Times online. I was immediately drawn to it when I saw the headline which read, “Eckhart Tolle may have Oprah Winfrey, but “The Shack” has people like Caleb Nowak.”
Usually anything with Oprah’s name included will get my attention, especially when I’m not looking for anything with Oprah’s name included.
So I clicked on through, scrolling down, skimming the article to see if there was any other mention of Oprah in it, or if she had any further connection to the novel; and while there wasn’t anything else said of her, I did came across a paragraph that said this: “Mr. Nowak, a maintenance worker near Yakima, Wash., first bought a copy of “The Shack,” a slim paperback novel by an unknown author about a grieving father who meets God in the form of a jolly African American woman, at a Borders bookstore in March…“
Needless to say, I kept reading to learn more about this novel, which I’d never heard of, even though the New York Times write-up said that it was fast-becoming a best seller at the time!
A longer breakdown of the book, which gives a little more about its story, via its sales page on Amazon, describes The Shack as:
… a Christian-themed novel about a character by the name of Mackenzie Allen Philips, whose youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and may have been brutally murdered. Four years later, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God (the above-mentioned jolly African American woman), 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. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!
The author, William P. Young, a 54-year old white man by the way, said in the New York Times article, he chose to make God an African American woman because he wanted to alter religious preconceptions, stating, “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.’“
The article also said, even people initially put off by the book’s characterization of God as a black woman, were won over!
After reading the entire piece (I still haven’t read the book), I thought about how many times I’d seen or heard God portrayed as an African American woman in any previous films, but I couldn’t immediately think of any.
But the novel is on my to-read list, now that Forest Whitaker is attached to both star in and direct the film adaptation of it, with the potential for Idris Elba and Oprah Winfrey to join him. I’d assume that Oprah has been offered the “God as a black woman” role. But no word on what role idris might be eyeing.
Although while I was intrigued by the author’s choice to have God be a black woman, I’m not really the target audience for religious film material, so I haven’t been in any rush to read it.
If you’ve read the novel, please chime in and enlighten the rest of us. I’m curious as to how the author incorporates the woman’s “blackness” into his portrayal of God, especially since it’s a novel that’s apparently been flying off the shelves since it was published!
You can pick up a copy HERE.