Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Review for Fun - Heaven is for Real

A Trickster Eric Novels review

This book came so highly recommended from my grandmother that she bought it for me (and maybe some other relatives; I'm not certain). Before I get into the review itself I want to make something clear: this book is about Colton Burpo and not Alex Malarkey and it was Alex that disavowed his story, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, in 2015. Colton continued to stand by his own in the announcement's aftermath. Now into the review itself.

Todd Burpo is a good author. I say this because he uses the First Person Narration well. It evokes that sense of familiarity and directness that I've heard 1st person is supposed to be for (I rarely encounter it as such). He's also done a good job making these events into a narrative instead of a recitation events; the prologue leads to a sense of impending doom that is fulfilled in the hospital visit and leads back to itself and flows into the meat of the story; the Heaven visit. Yet this has a downside to it.

For a book ostensibly about Colton Burpo, his father feels more like the main character. First of all, he's the one writing this book and he does so in First Person Narration. Second, about half of the book (60 or so pages) is about him and his struggles prior to Colton's visit to heaven. Context and background are good and all but that is excessive. Certainly the "holding Rosie the spider" thing could have been cut out. After the hospital visit there are still a few more chapters before Todd Burpo writes that he suspected that something supernatural might have happened.

It wasn't an immediate thing. Apparently Todd didn't tell anyone for some time afterward and might not have done so at all if not for a particular question asked by his father, and even then he only talked about it when asked. After the initial shock, Todd writes that he only asked open-ended questions so he didn't "pollute the source" so to speak with leading questions. In fact, he even tried trick questions to determine if Colton is basing his answers on true observation or earthly knowledge and Colton passed the test (if he realized it was a test at all).

The main thing for truth and validity that I see here is that Colton was four years old at the time. Four year olds don't know how to deceive. Sure, they can make up stories but not deceive. Certainly they wouldn't have the patience or self-discipline to keep it up for a prolonged period of time. A kid this age would get bored and move on. There's also the factor of knowledge; even a preacher's kid wouldn't know this stuff. At that age, religious education is basically "God loves you" and "be nice to people" level stuff.

I don't believe it deserves to be labeled as "afterlife tourism" because Colton doesn't talk about how wonderful Heaven is. For certain he wants to go back there but doesn't go on at length about what it looks like. It's more about the people he meets there.  Nor do I think that "un-biblical" or whatever is a fair label either. Every time, (and if not every time then most), that Colton talks about Heaven there is a pause where his dad-as-narrator matches it with something from the Bible. Another thing, I've heard that some readers discount some of the "knowledge proofs" like Colton's mother having a miscarriage before he was born by suggesting that someone else told him without the parent's knowing or the parents told him and forgot they did so. When does "your mother had a miscarriage before you were born and it was a girl" come up in conversation with a four year old?

Finally, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. Todd writes that he or someone else asked Colton about Satan numerous times and the kid would shut down every time; like it was too scary to talk about. He could talk about a war between angels and devils but Satan was too much. Speaking of that war, he gets serious. It's not like a kid talking about some awesome fight scene but some truly dreadful event.

To me, Todd sounds like he's telling the truth but he's not the one telling the story; his dad is so that is another level of discernment. Is his dad telling the truth about him? Maybe, maybe not; I don't have a means by which to judge him other than the book I have. I'm sure a lot of reasons or arguments could be made for not trusting him or the story since it can't be independently verified. For a skeptic that insists on rock-solid, physical, (etc.) evidence then I imagine that not even having such an experience themselves would convince them (Read: Agent Scully, although ironically she was more inclined to believe religious stuff than other "supernatural" stuff).

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Heaven is For Real" a B+

Click here for the next book review (not a review request): Killer Angels

Click here for the previous book review (a review request): Willakaville

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

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