'The Shack' author coming to Ocala to discuss his life, book
Published: Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 4:56 p.m.
William P. Young spent the better part of his life moving from one adventure to another. When he was 10 months of age, his family moved to the highlands of New Guinea, where he lived until he was 10 among primitive tribal people.
William P. Young
What: Author of “The Shack” will talk about his life and novel.
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 23 and 8:15, 9:30 and 11 a.m. services Jan. 24
Where: First Presbyterian Church, 511 S.E. Third St., Ocala
Cost: Admission for Jan. 23 talk is canned food for Interfaith Emergency Services; tickets are gone for the sanctuary, but there is overflow space in the fellowship hall. Sunday services are free. Barbecue luncheon on Sunday is $5.
When: 1 p.m. Jan. 23
Where: Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 4414 S.W. College Road, Ocala
He went to boarding school in New Guinea and later attended Bible college and seminary in the United States. He visited the Philippines, worked oil fields in northern Canada and held a variety of occupations, ultimately settling in a suburb of Portland, Ore., where he and his wife, Kim, raised six children.
And, somewhere along the way, Young found time to write a novel, “The Shack,” which quickly made it to the top of the New York Times Trade Paperback Best-sellers List.
Since then, the book also has traveled around the world and has been published in several other languages. More than 8 million copies have been sold in the United States alone, Young said.
Next weekend, Young will talk about his life and his book at First Presbyterian Church of Ocala. The meetings are open to the public, said Senior Pastor Raymond Guterman.
Cost for the Jan. 23 event is a canned food item for Interfaith Emergency Services. The sanctuary is sold out for that meeting; however, there will be room in the fellowship hall where attendees can watch via television.
The Jan. 24 meetings still are available and include a barbecue luncheon for $5. Guterman said there will be time for questions and answers after the meetings.
Guterman said he and his wife, Donna, heard Young speak in Gainesville last year and were eager to bring him to Ocala.
“We were just very touched by his story, how his life is reflected in the book, even though it's a novel,” Guterman said. “I think the book really hits a nerve, because not many of us, I mean, nobody, really, grew up in a perfect family. He addresses some tricky theological issues such as pain, evil and radical forgiveness.”
During his visit to Ocala, Young will sign books at Barnes & Noble Booksellers at 1 p.m. Jan. 23. Jamie Nogueiras, Barnes & Noble community relations manager, expects to have about 200 books on hand for the signing. She said she has read the book and found it “imaginative and different.”
“It's nothing like I've ever read before,” Nogueiras said. “It was definitely something that would stick in everyone's mind. His descriptions in the book, the way he describes God and the Holy Trinity, was very unique.”
In a telephone interview, Young said he still is amazed at how his book attracted so much attention and even ended up on the New York Times best-sellers list.
“It's still there,” he said, his voice tinted with awe. “It's been on for 89 weeks. It's been No. 1 for 47 in a row. The lowest it ever got was No. 3, and now it's back up to No. 1 again.”
Young said he wrote “The Shack” as a gift for his children, just as a way to share a little piece of himself with them. Then, a couple of friends read it and offered to help get it published. They started out in someone's garage with $300.
Published by Windblown Media in Newbury Park, Calif., “The Shack” opens with a mysterious letter, simply signed “Papa.” The letter challenges Mack to return to the place - the shack - where his daughter is thought to have been murdered four years earlier. Mack feels torn between his desire for answers and his personal struggle with faith. By responding to the letter, supposedly written by God himself, Mack must confront the one incident that caused the greatest pain in his life.
“The issue is, in the middle of loss, is God responsible for the loss?” Young said. “It can be a real struggle with his own faith. He gets to go back to the place that is the real center of his own pain. The big question that we face is, who is God? What is the nature and character of God? And, who am I to this God?”
Young said he can identify with a couple characters in the book. For him, it meant opening some wounds that go back to his youth. He said he was sexually abused starting at age 4 while living in the tribe. The abuses continued after he moved to boarding school. Even his eventual return to the United States brought challenges.
“The culture change was when I came back,” he said. “I was pretty much a Dani growing up. You have a perspective that is very, very different than when you live in the West. It was a mixed bag, very happy when I lived there and very tragic when I lived there. My parents were of the generation that, if you did the work of God, he would take care of the details.”
These days, Young reaches out to youth through his ministry, the Young Family Foundation, which provides food, clothing and educational mentoring to young people in dire situations. A portion of the proceeds from book sales go into the foundation.
“It's a pretty broad mission,” he said. “We also support an orphanage in Honduras and a school in Uganda. Some of the issues, like sex trafficking, are true in most of the world, unfortunately. We also work with new artists and just help them find a way to get their stuff out, mostly music, so far.”
Young continues to write. He's currently working on a narrative autobiographical piece, a screenplay based on “The Shack” and another novel.
“It's another fiction, in the same genre, but it's not a sequel,” he said.
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