My little sister had told me about Heaven is Here by Stephanie Nielson. My sister really loved the book for the way it made her view life. I wasn't sure what to think, and I really didn't know anything about it, but I promptly requested the book from the library. At our book club meeting in July and the decision to switch our August book to something happier I suggested Heaven is Here. I must be living right b/c not long after our decision to switch the book my hold came available at the library. I am so glad we decided to read this book now; I needed a strong and inspiring book.
I just finished this fabulous, heart wrenching, and inspiring book. With the combination of the Olympics and this book I have been crying a lot. I love sports, the Olympics, the stories, and the triumphant effort so often seen during the events. There was also that commercial about how all of the athletes are kids b/c to the mom's they'll always be a kid. I could only find the winter Olympics version of the commercial, but you get the idea. I love that commercial, and I tear up each time it comes on. Seriously, having kids has made me more of a weeper. Ridiculous! With the Olympics, mom related commercials, and this book I should've been carrying around a tissue box.
However, let's get focused on the book and the reason for this post. Heaven is Here is a great book. I honestly thoroughly enjoyed it. I might venture to say that this book is a 4.9 out of 5 stars in my book. I know, some of you are shocked, but the book was honestly that good. The pace of the book was great, the content was interesting as well as thought provoking, and it truly was inspiring. I honestly had many discussion points with my husband throughout my reading. The only reason the book lost 1/10th of a point (I have been watching a lot of Olympics lately huh?) is b/c there were a few grammatical errors. I consider grammatical errors to be too quick of editing, or the editors have way too much to do and do not have enough time to focus on each book. I swear I am finding more and more grammatical errors in books in the past five years. Either I am becoming better with grammar or the editors are slacking a bit. Even though there are a few grammatical errors in this book I am sure you will still find it to be fabulous as well. You might even consider it a 5 out of 5.
There are so many things I loved about this book. Stephanie Nielson began the book with her history growing up. She was a girl that was a true girly girl; she wanted so badly to get married, have a family, and be a mom. I have always been a sporty type girl so I didn't understand the super girly girls. I also always wanted to get married and have a family but there were so many other things I wanted to do. I wanted to get an education. I wanted to work and be a librarian. I wanted to travel and see places. I wanted to do it all, and I feel I've done pretty well so far. However, I still have plenty on my bucket list. Even though I couldn't understand how someone just wanted to get married and have kids rather than go to school and live a little I still came to really like Stephanie. I couldn't relate to her, but she had traits I absolutely loved. Stephanie talks about always keeping her hair short b/c that is what she liked rather than having long hair like a lot of the boys preferred. Stephanie may have wanted different things, but she was always true to herself. I absolutely love that about her. I love that she was always true to who she was and what she wanted. The world needs more people like that.
After you learn a little bit about Stephanie's fabulous life of meeting her Mr. Nielson (how she refers to him on her blog) and having kids you learn about the fateful day, August 16, 2008 when her entire life changed. I honestly can't even imagine going through what she had to go through, but she did a great job writing about not only what happened, but what she was thinking as well as how she felt. In August of 2008 Stephanie and her husband where in a plane accident. They both miraculously survived, but they had injuries. Her husband, Christian, was burned badly as well as he hurt his back. Stephanie had more than 80% of her body burned. After reading this book I am a bit more weary of small planes as well as terrified of being burned. The remaining pages of the book discuss Stephanie's recovery. There were points where she was at an all time low, and you as the reader felt her pain and sorrow. There were times where the little things, like her first kiss again with her husband, where you as the reader are just as ecstatic for her. Stephanie wrote this book so well that you really felt everything she did.
You might be thinking that this book sounds tragically sad, and you are right to think that. There are parts of this book that are tragic and sad, but the inspiring parts of the book help you to not only appreciate your family, faith, and community a lot more but give you hope that you as the reader can also accomplish hard things. Stephanie said that she now knows that with her family, her faith and belief, and her community she, and we all, can get through anything. We all face hard times; it is good to know and be reminded of the fact that with the right support we can get through it. Stephanie also emphasizes that you can not only get through it, but you can choose to be happy while going through it. I agree; happiness is most definitely a choice we make each and every day, or we should make the choice to be happy every day. I know that I have my grumpy days, and it is unfortunate, for myself as well as for my husband, on the days I don't consciously make the choice to be happy.
After Stephanie woke from her coma she eventually had to look at herself in the mirror. Her face was badly burned, and she did not like the way she looked or feel like she looked like herself. Women are vain; we like to look good. I think it is in our nature to want to look good. However, to be burned so bad and not look like yourself has to be extremely difficult. I can't even comprehend how difficult it would be to accept the new you and the way you look. I admire Stephanie for writing about the struggle she had with this issue. I think we all can understand and sympathize. I don't think there are many women in the world that wouldn't struggle with this if they were in the same situation.
There are honestly so many different parts of the book that inspired me to be kinder to others, to focus and look on the heart more, to be patient with myself, and so much more. I truly feel inspired. There are so many parts of the book that make me want to be a better person. There are so many parts of the book that make me grateful for the body I have (even though it may not be my "ideal" body yet- dang giving birth a few months ago). There are many parts of the book that make me grateful for the life I am living and for my own trials. We each have our own trials in life. Life is definitely not always easy, but it can be happy if we choose it. Trials come to us all, but those trials teach us things that we couldn't learn in any other way. It may be hard, but it is always worth it.
Go and read this book. It is worth every minute you spend reading it. I think you will also be inspired.
Oh, and I always feel like I should share with you the "official" book description from the publisher.
"Stephanie Nielson began sharing her life in 2005 on nieniedialogues.com, drawing readers in with her warmth and candor. She quickly attracted a loyal following that was captivated by the upbeat mother happily raising her young children, madly in love with her husband, Christian (Mr. Nielson to her readers), and filled with gratitude for her blessed life.
However, everything changed in an instant on a sunny day in August 2008, when Stephanie and Christian were in a horrific plane crash. Christian was burned over 40 percent of his body, and Stephanie was on the brink of death, with burns over 80 percent of her body. She would remain in a coma for four months.
In the aftermath of this harrowing tragedy, Stephanie maintained a stunning sense of humor, optimism, and resilience. She has since shared this strength of spirit with others through her blog, in magazine features, and on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Now, in this moving memoir, Stephanie tells the full, extraordinary story of her unlikely recovery and the incredible love behind it--from a riveting account of the crash to all that followed in its wake. With vivid detail, Stephanie recounts her emotional and physical journey, from her first painful days after awakening from the coma to the first time she saw her face in the mirror, the first kiss she shared with Christian after the accident, and the first time she talked to her children after their long separation. She also reflects back on life before the accident, to her happy childhood as one of nine siblings, her close-knit community and strong Mormon faith, and her fairy-tale love story, all of which became her foundation of strength as she rebuilt her life.
What emerges from the wreckage of a tragic accident is a unique perspective on joy, beauty, and overcoming adversity that is as gripping as it is inspirational. Heaven Is Here is a poignant reminder of how faith and family, love and community can bolster us, sustain us, and quite literally, in some cases, save us."
I also love what The Pioneer Woman had to say about the book, she is much more concise than I am. I am incredibly wordy. Sorry. :)
"In Heaven Is Here, Stephanie chronicles in harrowing detail the unspeakable tragedy that would forever alter her life. But the real story is this: Through all the tears, pain, upheaval, sadness, and struggles, it was Stephanie's faith--and the abundant love of her beautiful family--that brought her back to life. I recommend this book to anyone who needs a reminder of just how strong the human spirit is, and how instrumental faith can be in overcoming what life throws at us."--Ree Drummond, author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks
Go and read this book; then come and tell me what you thought of it!