It was inevitable that in the wake of The Shack there would be imitators, and many are probably yet to come. Some of these will succeed and others will be pulped for recycling, but overall, I was surprised to see 2013’s The Gate by Dann Stouten (Revell) turning up at remainder prices earlier this year. This book deserves better, it deserves a second look.
Though I haven’t read the latter, I thought that the book might be well-described as The Shack meets The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but since I’m only qualified to note comparisons to the former, that is the best place to begin.
Like the popular Paul Young novel, Stouten’s novel involves a point of crisis that the author must redeem somehow, though in this case redemption rests on the shoulders of both of the two parties involved, and The Gate‘s “great sadness” is not quite as dark. The book also deals with our need for reconciliation and forgiveness. Both books use fiction as a means of teaching. The two titles have much to say about heaven. Also like Young’s bestseller, this one has great potential appeal to the male reader, accomplished here with the use of auto industry references that will especially resonate with collectors of vintage cars. Finally, like Shack, the book also allows the main character to have interaction with visible representations of all three parts of the triune Godhead; this book’s version of which would probably be less like to attract the controversy which dogged the bestseller.
The book is both peppered with and faithful to scripture, reflecting the author’s vocation as a Dutch Reformed pastor. There are some very teachable moments throughout, thought it was a scene with the main character reading bedtime stories to his daughters that I actually went back to re-read twice. Giving the character three daughters, along with interaction with female relatives throughout the story prevents this narrative from being male-dominated.
Again, I don’t know how this book did not receive wider publicity and marketing on its release, but I’m prepared to help remedy that here, and encourage you to track it down.