Wm. Paul Young made a name for himself in the publishing world after his self-published inaugural novel, THE SHACK, sold a million copies by word-of-mouth and went on to sell nearly 18 million copies since it was picked up by the FaithWords imprint of Hachette Book Group. Not surprisingly, CROSS ROADS is expected to build on the strength and popularity of THE SHACK, and with good reason. Or, maybe better stated, three good reasons.
"Fans of THE SHACK, and people of faith who welcome challenging ideas embedded in an absorbing story, will likely consider this one to be another satisfying book from Young's creative mind."
The first reason why the book will likely gain a fair amount of traction is the story itself. Main character Tony Spencer has made a right mess of his personal life in his efforts to become professionally and financially successful. But along with success came a growing paranoia that someone was surreptitiously watching him. A cerebral hemorrhage lands him in a coma, and it's when he's in this comatose state that Spencer encounters the Trinity (and a few human beings), which echoes the story line of THE SHACK. But this is a different story, one in which Spencer is allowed to see life through the eyes of others, come face-to-face with his own shortcomings, and make a difficult decision that he never could have anticipated. It's an imaginative, provocative take on the inner life, the brokenness of one man's spirit, and the surprising pathway to the healing of that brokenness.
The second reason for the book's probable success is its theological perspective, which is every bit as controversial as that found in THE SHACK. Many evangelical Christians are likely to take issue with the idea that the spirit of a comatose man could not only inhabit another person's body but also travel from one body to another. But as many fans of THE SHACK discovered, reading a compelling story that presents an unorthodox view of God and the way God works can provide a fresh understanding of the nature of God and enable them to experience the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in a more personal way.
Finally, there's the third reason: the vastly improved writing quality that can't help but draw in readers who were put off by the erratic writing in THE SHACK. In CROSS ROADS, Young's writing is tight, consistent and strong, a remarkable improvement on the style he exhibited in his debut novel. He uses allegory in much the same way that John Bunyan did in THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, and he so skillfully handles both metaphor and imagery that neither literary device ever feels forced, a pitfall that often plagues far more experienced writers.
Granted, CROSS ROADS is not the pioneering novel that THE SHACK was. It's at times confusing, and the abrupt ending feels like little more than a setup for the next book. But it builds on the conversation Young started in his first book and offers some meatier food for thought about the afterlife --- or, as Jesus calls it in this book, the life-after, as well as the in-between life represented by Spencer's comatose state. Fans of THE SHACK, and people of faith who welcome challenging ideas embedded in an absorbing story, will likely consider this one to be another satisfying book from Young's creative mind.
Reviewed by Marcia Ford on December 14, 2012