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Tuesday, 22 February, 2011

Review: Heaven Is For Real
(with comments)

On Sunday, Phil volunteered to buy a copy of Heaven is For Real if someone would read it and review it. It's a bestselling book about a 4-year old boy who goes to Heaven and returns. Wendy! volunteered for the assignment. She read it, and here's her review:

Heaven is for Real, a Real Review
By Wendy!

Heaven-is-for-Real1Shockingly, I agreed to review this book. There were too many parallels for me to ignore, and having a JWB Kindle is a cosmic (comic?) cherry on top. Jupiter must have aligned with Mars because I read an entire conservative Christian book, co-written by the author of Sarah Palin’s memoirs and I kept an open mind. That, in itself may very well qualify as a miracle.  Somebody call the Pope!

I had the profound experience of being near someone during an extended out-of-body/near death experience, as well as being there a year later when the ultimate transition happened.  The word “Death” is so inadequate.

A desire to validate my own experience and increase the awe by hearing similar stories is balanced by a history with organized religion and right wing conservatism that would still be a nightmare of memories if it weren’t for resiliency and ironically, the “spiritual” experience mentioned above. The word “spiritual” is so inadequate.

One of the most notable points of my experience is my unwillingness to share details with anyone but those closest to me. Write a book? Not possible.  It is too precious, personal and difficult to articulate.  So I am skeptical of someone who wants to shout their story.  But this is a second hand story and people are different.  I laughed on Location 158 when the author wrote “Now, as a pastor I’m not a believer in superstition.”

The problem I see is there are far too many details.  The attempts to prove and support the story are the fabrications.  The parents claim (and may believe) they did not expose the boy to any other basis for his stories, but they betray the fact that they do, right in the book itself!  Furthermore, to believe the child of a minister was unexposed to biblical details shows a considerable lack of respect for the sponge that is the mind of a four year old. 

Four may be without guile in what they can articulate, but they have more talent than a psychic for reading an adult’s reaction.  To think you can hide truth from a child is both arrogant and ignorant.  At most you might confuse them with repetitive mixed messages – words that don’t match the moments and emotions. In spite of the father's claims that he “hid” his reaction, the boy most certainly picked up on it. Children endlessly seek the approval of their parents, and parents endlessly encourage behaviors they value. Even when neither one has a clue.  Whether the parent is a junkie who values the next fix, a Mom who values only fashion or a minister who values the God of Revelations,children know, listen and absorb.

The young boy may very well have had a spiritual experience, and he is intelligent, but he has already forgotten the unvarnished truth of the moment.  Sadly, his intelligence is being swallowed up by dogmatism and a narrow world view.  His life will be colored not by the experience but by the stories about his experience. I do not doubt the the terror of the moment, or the actual spiritual experience as a result.  But the unvarnished truth is already buried, and this book piles great, huge mounds of distraction on whatever may have happened.

The real buried pearl in the book is the mention of Akiane Kramarik.  Do the author(s) realize the prodigy who painted Jesus at 9, and the Christian Poster Child who appeared on the Hour of Power in the Crystal Cathedral at 10 years old has blossomed into a mature and thoughtful young lady?  Her interview on Public TV’s “Conversations” at 15 was most impressive.  If the author(s) read all the recent entries in Akiane blog and still admire her, there is hope for the young boy in the book.  Discovering Akiane's story certainly made this book a worthwhile read.


Permalink | Posted in Books |

- Reader Comments -

Following are comments in response to this item.
The most recent comment is at the bottom.

  1. By Rude Bee Tuesday. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @07:56am:
    While your own experiences and reaction are interesting, at least a brief summary of what the book is about is de rigeur for a review. Please tell us what the book claims before letting us know whether you agree with it or not.
  2. By Wendy!. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @08:08am:
    My apologies... I shall remedy that shortcoming forthwith. I assumed everyone already read the summary.
  3. By meg_mac. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @08:21am:
    I assumed everyone already read the summary.

    I did. Thanks for your take. I like hearing reviews that compare the reviewers personal thoughts with the subject matter.
  4. By lobstah. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @08:27am:
    lobstah's Cliff Notes version:

    Pastor , wrestling coach, volunteer fireman, and garage door company owner writes book exploiting his son's illness in an attempt to enrich the reader (himself) with fantastic tales that were retold (coached) from his son.
  5. By deciBelcat. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @08:37am:
    The words "Nice review, Wendy!" are so inadequate.
  6. By jhenderson. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @08:50am:
    Great review.
  7. By Phil. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @10:07am:
    Wendy!
    Thank you for volunteering - an awesome review.
    On a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rank this book (5=Best)?

    Why the hell doesn't Phil pull his damned weight and write the "review?"

    Curtis, because I could not have done nearly as well as Wendy!
    Besides, I'm a conservative. The only thing we know is what *others* tell us to know :)
  8. By Wendy!. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @10:25am:
    Will comment soon... I HATE when work gets in the way of j-walking...
  9. By Wendy!. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @11:35am:
    The Summary: Heaven is for Real is the story of a 4 year old boy who has a near death experience when his appendix burst and went untreated for a dangerously long time. The boy tells the details to his parents over the course of several YEARS and the author tries to convince us that absolutely NONE of the boy's stories are influenced by outside sources. There are copious biblical quotes to reinforce the story of the boy's trip to heaven where he met Jesus, God, John the Baptist, Gabriel, his miscarried sister, deceased grandfather and he witnessed the coming war foretold in Revelations. [Spoiler Alert] The grand conclusion is when the boy FINALLY identifies an accurate picture of Jesus after years of his father showing him picture after picture. That picture is a painting by Akiane Kramarik.
    I give it 3.5 stars as interesting, but I am pretty sure what I found interesting was not what the author intended.
  10. By Don Coyote. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @11:55am:
    Dear Wendy! Thanks for reading that so that I don't have to. Not that I would anyway.
  11. By Curtis. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @11:59am:
    I kind of agreed with Rude Bee, but with the above addition it is definitely now stuff that interests me a lot (the review, not the book). Thanks, Wendy!.
  12. By Wendy!. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @12:54pm:
    My oversight. I knew the whole story before I even picked up the book so I assumed everyone did. I thought I read it here at the J-Walk Blog but now I am not sure where I learned the plot summary.

    Perhaps it was revealed to me...
  13. By Curtis. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @04:18pm:
    That's it!
  14. By jmnorthcutt. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @07:19pm:
    Three years ago come April I had two spinal cord surgeries two days apart. I had a rare abscess inside my spinal cord which my doctor says I was lucky to have survived. The doctors did not know what I had so they closed me up and ran more tests the next day and did the second surgery the next day after the tests.

    Each time I was in ICU I told my wife and kids that my Dad, Father in Law and Mother in Law were with me watching over me in surgery and ICU. Needless to say they were deceased. My family called them my guardian angels.

    Makes you wonder??
  15. By J-Walk. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @07:27pm:
    Do you know which drugs they used for anesthesia?
  16. By gdm IV. Comment posted 22-Feb-2011 @08:09pm:
    Makes you wonder??

    Not for a second. Why would it?
  17. By Mariamente. Comment posted 01-May-2011 @01:50pm:
    It was obvious from the very beginning, that this protestant Christian influence was pervasive. Fine. "whoever is not against us, is with us".

    As a strong Catholic believer I love all testimony of God's love. I'm already half way past the begininng and am starting to get a little concerned about having been introduced to family members (catholics have no doubt about their presence and watch over us) thus our prayer requests to them, John the Babtist, the Angel Gabriel (we also ask them to pray for us), and not one metion of Jesus' very own mother, whom the Angel Gabriel himself proclaimed "blessed among women", I'm afraid i'll walk way defrauded and dissapointed in all Christianity.

    Everyone but the women who gave birth to christianity doesn't exsist?

    Somebody please tell me it gets better.
  18. By AB. Comment posted 03-Jun-2011 @07:44pm:
    I read the "review" by Wendy to see if she had real knowledge of Christian worship or the understanding of the content of this book. If she has any teachings of Bible knowledge, it has been sadly neglected. This is a prime example of what our universites are teaching our gullible kids. The kids cleave to every word the professor has to say. More that likely these professors have never opened a Bible to study the true word and teach that instead of their own pityful carnal knowledge. By these actions they are poisoning our society minds. Don't believe it? Look at our society compared to the days we have prayer in schools, sports games and always before a car race. Wake up America! Bring God back into our nation, from the top, down!
  19. By Believer. Comment posted 09-Jul-2011 @03:45pm:
    It does mention Mary in the book. Page 152 and 153.
  20. By Believer. Comment posted 09-Jul-2011 @03:52pm:
    There... I just told you - the Mother of Christianity IS mentioned- this book is better than you allow yourself to think. That's the sad problem with society. Open up your hearts and minds and find God within your own hearts. Maybe then you will be able to understand.

    He wasn't supposed to make it. And he did. And he also changed alot of people's lives. For the better.
  21. By Michelle Pastor. Comment posted 31-Jul-2011 @11:47am:
    It is a great book. I'm sorry for my stupid reaction based on non related experiences that influenced my comment. I've been very hurt when I come across such dismissive attitudes towards Jesus' mother. I'm silly, I was wrong, and only human. I congratulate you for a great book.
  22. By Trish Pickard. Comment posted 08-Sep-2011 @06:41pm:
    Free Bible study on the book HEAVEN IS FOR REAL
    The book, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL was a fascinating read for me. For many it has given them hope for eternal life.
    To me, this is a far too important a subject to put my hope in a little boy’s experience. I wanted to see what
    God had to say so I went to the Bible. I have written a Bible study about heaven.
    I would be delighted to send you a free copy. Email me at and I will email you a copy.
    Trish Pickard
  23. By J-Walk. Comment posted 08-Sep-2011 @06:55pm:
    Trish, two possibilities:

    1. You are a stupid moron, and gullible as hell.

    2. You're a con artist trying to profit from stupidity.

    One of the two is correct. There are no other options.
  24. By Trish Pickard. Comment posted 09-Sep-2011 @09:32am:
    J-Walk, there are still people out there that don't have $ motives and just want to help. Why don't you request the study and do it and then comment.12
  25. By J-Walk. Comment posted 09-Sep-2011 @10:06am:
    That would be like ordering a book filled with anecdotes about Santa Clause. I have better things to do with my time.
  26. By gdm IV. Comment posted 09-Sep-2011 @02:16pm:
    J-Walk, there are still people out there that don't have $ motives and just want to help

    So, it's #1 then. Trish is a gullible stupid moron.
  27. By trish Pickard. Comment posted 10-Sep-2011 @10:04am:
    Well, I never had those words used to describe me (at least not to my face). Seems like you are reacting fairly strongly. I am very comfortable with my belief in the Bible and how God has revealed Himself.
    Hope you have a WONDERFFUL day
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