(There is always the chance that a any book discussion might reveal too much about an unread story – if you haven’t read this book and want to, you might want to wait to read what is written here – just in case.)
I wanted to like this book. No, I wanted to love this book.
I wanted to leave the story believing that angels are watching and that Jesus is waiting at the right hand of the Father. And I wanted know for sure that I will see my grandfather again. And maybe even a few cats and a goldfish named Freddie.
But, really, Heaven is for Real is just okay. The good news is that it is a super fast read. The writing is very simplistic which is probably intentional since it is the story of a small boy. But it is meant as a book for adults to read, so its simplicity is unfortunate.
Heaven is for Real is about a little boy who visits Heaven while having emergency surgery for acute appendicitis. The story is told by Todd Burpo, the boy’s father who is a minister and had recently experienced several significant medical setbacks of his own. The little boy’s name is Colton. He seems charming and, according to the story, he is convinced without a doubt that he has been to Heaven and met Jesus.
I have not read a lot of “afterlife” stories and I guess, to be fair, I am reluctant to believe them. But this story did not sell it for me.
Some of the details just seemed to not make a ton of sense. For example, Colton tells his parents that Jesus was wearing a purple sash and that he rode a unicorn. Those details did not lead me to an ah-ha moment but a hmmm moment.
Todd follows behind many of the descriptions from Colton and explains how they make sense according to the Bible and his own faith. Todd defending every memory made it feel like a debate. Even before the reader has a chance to form an opinion on a memory, Todd is right there anticipating. It was as if he was saying, “Oh, you’re not sure that could be true, let me tell you why it might be or could be or simply is.” I would have preferred to have been left to decipher the details on my own. To be allowed to form my own opinions. Maybe that would have encouraged the magic behind the experience to seep into the story and would have allowed me to connect with it on a more personal level. After all, if you have faith, you don’t need to necessarily understand everything.
Colton’s descriptions unfold over a significant period of time. His parents wanted to be careful not to guide his memories (which is good) so they were reluctant to probe too deeply. However, I would think a young child from a religious family would be brimming over with excitement to share every single detail of his story. Immediately. And continuously.
In my own mind, I wonder why God would allow someone to visit Heaven and return to earth if they weren’t meant to share and share and share. To testify that Heaven is, in fact, for Real.
Todd also states that Colton was never officially dead. Thank God, right. But I am not sure how that plays in to the authentic “afterlife” experience. If actually dying is critical to that experience than “hmmmm” again.
There are certainly some happenings in the book that are more convincing. After the surgery, Colton told Todd that he saw his father in a room praying while Colton was having surgery and that his mother had been on the phone, although no one had told him where his parents were during that time. Colton claims to have “seen” them. It’s hard to explain that away.
Anywho, it is a simplistic story that is easy enough to read. I think it has more entertainment value than spiritual awakening potential. The story could have been better if we heard more from Colton’s mom. As a mother, I would have liked to have heard the mother’s voice in the telling of the story.
Now that I am surely damned to hell, I am off to read Little Bee by Chris Cleave.