A week ago my mom handed me this book and said, "You should read this." Though I usually trust her book suggestions, this one made me kinda roll my eyes. A six-year-old quadriplegic's near-death experience and descriptions of heaven? I believe in both near-death experiences and heaven (and six-year-olds, as a matter of fact) but this sounded awfully cloying--like a poor disabled kid has more rampant imagination than real inspiration. But seeing as I had just finished another book and a day without a book feels like a ship without a compass, I took the book home. I figured I'd give it a chance. Perhaps the authors' last name was just a funny one and the contents would not actually be malarkey.
The book opens with the events of a morning in November 2004, when therapist Kevin Malarkey and his son Alex experienced a devastating car accident. While Kevin escaped virtually unscathed, Alex suffered what is known as an "internal decapitation," meaning his spinal cord was severed from his head. While family, friends, church community, and a number of strangers "coincidentally" on the scene prayed, Alex managed to survive this horrific injury (though hospital staff said they had never seen a child do so). As Alex lay in a coma for two months, hundreds if not thousands of people continued their petitions to God, and further miracles began to occur. But that's not even the crazy part yet. When Alex returned from The Big Sleep and regained the ability to speak--another miracle no one could have hoped for--he brought with him detailed descriptions of where he had been…heaven. The book is structured so that Kevin tells his perspective in longish, narrative chapters endcapped with mini-chapters written by Alex, explaining some of his spiritual experiences.
I was pretty surprised to find that by the end, I believed the entirety of both Kevin and Alex's stories. Now you're probably rolling your eyes at me. And maybe you'll have to read it yourself to fully understand how such a preposterous premise could be totally credible, but allow me to explain my own arrival at this conclusion. First, Kevin makes quite plain that supernatural experiences like miracles, angels, and prophecy were never part of his personal faith prior to the accident and its aftermath. He is as skeptical as he expects anyone reading his book to be. He says he probably wouldn't believe any of this had it not happened to him and his family. Secondly, nothing in the book is unorthodox whatsoever. I never read a chapter--or even a sentence--and went, "Okay, spiritual creepazoid. Done." Lastly, (minor spoiler here) Alex was able to describe vivid details from the scene of the accident, though he was completely unconscious at the time, as well as details of what transpired on the scene after his body had been air-evac-ed to the hospital. To me, this is evidence in favor of his having been in the spirit and out of his body.
Beyond whether or not I believe Alex's supernatural experiences, the take-home point for me in reading this book was that it really stirred up my faith--my faith in the phenomenal power of prayer, my faith in the wonderful place God has prepared for us when we leave this mortal coil. It jarred my memory to realize that angels are real beings who act on behalf of God here on earth. It reminded me that nothing is truly hopeless, and like the woman to the judge in Luke 18, we can and should keep on praying, even when circumstances look impossibly lost.
My only criticisms: Kevin's chapters could have used some editing; he does tend to repeat himself at times and wax a little too profusely on some basic spiritual points. (But hey, the man's not a writer by trade, so that makes it more forgivable.) Also, since Alex's experiences in heaven are primarily what give the book its intrigue factor, I wish he would have shared at greater length about them. Then again, he claims that God instructed him not to share certain details. So if that's the case, I guess I can deal.
All in all, I highly recommend The Boy who Came Back from Heaven. It's a quick read that just may have you marveling at how clear God's intervention in our lives can be, not to mention the incredible future He has planned for those who hope in Him.