on March 3, 2012
I could not put down this book. I literally started it one afternoon, and finished it in the wee hours of the morning. I had recently become aware of Stephanie Nielson's story a few months ago. I had actually read a story about Mormon Mommy Bloggers on Salon, which lead me to her blog. I read a few posts and saw that she had been on Oprah...but kind of forgot about her until I saw this book come up on the Amazon Vine program. I'm not Mormon, but with all the attention on the LDS church recently, I've been trying to find out more. I figure the best way, rather than listen to the detractors, is to go to the actual church members as well as the church's website. It's been quite enlightening.
Stephanie's faith is woven throughout this book. I quite honestly do not believe she'd be here today if it wasn't for her strong faith in God (whom she and other Mormons call "Heavenly Father"). She firmly believes in the power of prayer--and the results of those beliefs come through--be it the strength to get through just one more therapy session or to handle the struggles with her children accepting her new limitations. When my husband was doing a surgical residency, the worst rotation was the burn unit. He would always come home very humbled after each day....and a full month in the burn unit was about all he could take. Stephanie was burned over 80% of her body when the small private plan she was riding in with her husband and his flying instructor crashed. Her husband was burned as well--I believe around 40-50%, as was the pilot/flight instructor (50%--did not survive.) I think the reason she survived were two fold--one her faith, and two her family. She was blessed with a large family as well as a network of church family which really came out to help her and her husband.
The book is not all about her accident or recover, however. You get a glimpse of her life before the accident--including her engagement with her husband. You also get to see how she's doing nearly three years later. It's a really inspiring book. I also think it's a good read for non-Mormons to better understand the Mormon faith. Highly highly recommended. This is a book that really makes you count your blessings and realize what is important in life.
I found a video of Stephanie on Youtube, for those that are interested... [...]
I was vaguely familiar with the story before I read the book. I expected the book to be the story of the plane crash and her recovery. And it was. But it felt like more. Stephanie is completely honest about her struggles. She shares her feelings and experiences even when they are negative. She talks about feeling like her family would be better off without her. She was reluctant to see her kids again. She couldn't bear to have her husband visit for a while. It isn't all rainbows are joy. But the pain she shares makes her accomplishments and attitude even more wonderful. The way she invites you to understand her struggles gave me some insight into some of my own. It also reminded me how much I love my siblings and want my own children to have that close relationship.
I had planned to read the book over a couple of days but despite the heavy subject matter it was an easy read and I read it in one night. I didn't get teary at all until near the end her little boy, Ollie, told a stranger in a resturant to stop staring at his mom. It was hard not to be moved by the little boy's courage and all that family had been through.
Stephanie says that she has accepted living in a world that doesn't accept her. If she isn't accepted, I don't think it will be because of her scarred face. It will be because she reminds us that we have a choice about how we face adversity. She reminds us what marriages should be and how families should work. We can either reach for those goals ourselves or resent her for the reminder.
I am work a little harder. Be a little more grateful. And enjoy today more.
on March 4, 2012
This is the most heartrending and emotionally engaging book I've read in a very long time. Stephanie Nielson speaks first-hand of the most unimaginable trauma the human body can endure--near death by fire--and makes it agonizingly real.
Heaven is Here was a difficult book to read, yet I could not put it down. I felt I was there with Stephanie at every moment, heart racing and stomach churning. From the terrifying plane crash and harrowing months of treatment and therapy through her slow and ongoing recovery, her journey became my journey.
What a wonderful gift Stephanie has given us with this terrifying and beautiful memoir. Her message of hope, determination, and love, in spite of the very worst of circumstances, has given me renewed joy in my own life as I realize how insignificant my petty complaints are and how boundless my blessings. Thank you Stepanie, what a blessing and inspiration you are to all of us!
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.
I am always interested in how well bloggers can make the leap from the more informal style of blogging to the more formal style of writing a book. Sometimes an individual's story translates well and sometimes it doesn't. Bloggers must walk a fine line between offering something new to their long-time readers while attempting to share their story with people who may be new readers.
I started following Stephanie Nielson's NIENIE DIALOGUES blog just after her horrific plane accident in August of 2008. I was drawn to her story because of all the many many member of the blogging community who banded together to help the Nielson family. So, I have been reading her blog for the last 3.5 years. I was very familiar with her story but I was hoping her book would fill in some blanks for me as a regular reader of her blog.
Stephanie Nielson is a Mormon Mommy blogger who rose to popularity with her tales of family life and creative celebrations of every day moments. In August 2008, Stephanie and her husband Christian were a plane crash that killed their friend and pilot Doug Kinneard. Stephanie and Christian were both horribly burned with Stephanie sustaining burns to 80% of her body. For the next three months following the crash, Stephanie hovered between life and death in a medically-induced coma. Almost four years after the accident, Stephanie and her family have battled their way back from the accident as they recreated their lives and relationships.
I appreciated the amount of detail that Stephanie included in this book. It filled in many blanks for me. We learn of how she met Christian and their courtship and subsequent marriage. We learn more about their early years together when Stephanie first became a mother and started blogging. And then there is the accident itself. Stephanie is blunt and honest about her feelings when she finally woke from her coma and how she struggled to come to terms with her new life. The most poignant moments in the book come from her attempts to reconnect with her children. She doesn't gloss over anything and share how difficult her journey was and how much she had to rely on her faith.
The one thing I felt was missing from this story was how Stephanie and Christian rebuilt THEIR relationship. When Stephanie appeared on "Oprah," she was still recovering and sorting through her memories of the plane crash. At this time, she believed Christian pulled her from the plane. It was later revealed that he did not as he thought she had been able to follow him from the plane on her own. Stephanie's sisters have talked frankly about how hard it was for Stephanie and Christian to rebuild their relationship even though there was never any doubt that they would. I was very surprised that Stephanie didn't touch on any of this in her memoir. It is a confusing omission.
Still, the story of the Nielson family is one of faith and the strength of love and family. I think it will appeal to many family- and faith-oriented readers even if they haven't read the NIENIE DIALOGUES before. Long-time readers will find that the story they have followed so closely is more fleshed out in this book. It is wonderful to see how far Stephanie and her family have come since the accident. Especially since they are now expecting their fifth child any day now.
BOTTOM LINE: Recommended for fans of inspirational memoirs. It is definitely an inspiring story of faith and love that will probably leave you wanting to learn more about Nielson family.
The "Nie Nie Dialogues" blog was one I visited on a regular basis years ago. I, like so many of her readers, was stunned when we learned, through her sister's blog post, of the airplane crash that nearly took the lives of Stephanie Nielson and her husband, Christian. This is someone we "knew" -- as much as you can know anyone through their writing of a blog -- and someone we admired for her physical and spiritual beauty, as well as her obvious love for her family and home. Those of us who read Stephanie's blog BC (before crash), already knew what a special person she was. We were soon to learn of the beautiful, giving spirit of her family and friends as well, and we cheered to learn she was going to live, and we cheered more when she typed her first blog entry, months after the crash. We thought we felt her pain through her blog posts during her recovery, and we celebrated with her the tiny moments in life that Stephanie now taught us to appreciate.
I am, therefore, quite honored to review HEAVEN IN HERE by Stephanie Nielson. If you thought you knew her from "Nie Nie Dialogues", this book will give you a deeper, more personal view at Stephanie's life - both before and after the crash - that you've probably not read or truly understood before. Her brilliant writing style shines through, as does her thirst for happiness, the love of her family, and her deep commitment to her children.
This is a book about having it all and thinking it was all taken away, only to find that when door shuts, another opens -- and that the one that opens may have more beauty and love than you imagined possible. Stephanie's writing style is so intimate and personal that you will want to reach through the pages and hold her hand when she re-learns to walk, give her a hug when she cries in frustration, cheer for her when she reaches her many, and sometimes seemingly impossible, goals.
This is a true story of a love for life to an extent that few of us have until the very real possibility of death is presented to us. It will make the reader evaluate the smallest things in life that we take for granted, and recognize how much more we can do - for ourselves, for our family, for our community.
This book will make you cry, but it's far from a "sob story" as you can get. Stephanie's ability to connect with her readers personally is unsurpassed, as is evidenced by the popularity of her blog as well. This is a truly inspirational story not just about recovering from a horrific accident, but about accepting life as it is now and sharing the glory of that with those around you.
Thank you, Stephanie. I have been so touched by your book. I truly feel I am a better person from reading it.
This book is at the same time heartbreaking and inspiring. It has changed the way I view my role as a mother and inspired me to be better and to be more thankful. Stephanie Nielson has given us a beautiful memoir that is well-written, honest and hopeful. She doesn't spare us from her real feelings of despair and doubt after her plane crash, yet she manages to inspire hope and happiness through her narrative of her experience and the emotional and spiritual changes she experienced, through her amazing testimony of her faith, and through the display of her amazing love and devotion toward her husband and four children. I read the entire book in an evening - I just could not put it down.
I had a lot of mixed feelings about this book. It was definitely engaging and kept me interested. I appreciated her perspective on recovering from an experience like that - it gives you a lot more compassion for what people endure.
The writing was okay. Some of the transitions to quotes were forced and awkward. Some of the religious interjections also didn't flow well.
In terms of content, it was really repetitive. I think the editor could have been more ruthless about cutting down the length of the book, though it did give you a sense of how long the whole process was.
More than that what I found frustrating was the mixed nature of the message. It's slated as a story of hope and triumph, but the book as a whole is not introspective at all. It reads like a litany of "I didn't want to do X because it was too hard," "I did Y because it seemed like the right thing" or "Z person upset me because they wanted me to do something that was too hard."
Basically she writes that her family dragged her kicking and screaming down the road to recovery and it's only after things are mostly back to "normal" that she introspects about learning that life is not about what you look like but who you are. It's a captivating story, but the take home message isn't terribly deep and it definitely doesn't read like a story of triumph (if you want that check out "I didn't promise you a goody bag" by Jennifer G...). I'm not criticizing her life choices, but as a reading experience that was pretty frustrating, especially when it seemed like her decisions were damaging to herself and the people around her.
For example, she refused to see her kids for a really long time (I think it was a month after she came out of her coma) because it was "too hard" but then after a few different living situations decided to bring the kids home without much of a transition after they'd been living with relatives for six months, which she described as traumatic for them.
In another instance she told her husband she wasn't going back to Arizona and would need to move to Utah to be near her family (her husband's family was in Arizona). She says that she saw that he was disappointed and had a great job there but that it was just "too hard" to go back.
I really had a hard time relating to her perspective. It felt very self focused. It was disconcerting to have her describe how unmotivated she was to get better, how much of a burden she was and how her own actions hurt people without any real sense of empathy for them. Maybe it was there but it wasn't communicated in the book. It came across as "Getting better was too hard, the people who loved me made me get better, now my kids love me again so my life isn't hell."
I do NOT mean to criticize her at all because I have no idea how I would respond in those circumstances. I am criticizing the reading experience. I found it frustrating and I wanted more explanation. Where was Christian's family through all this? Did she reconcile with her sisters after taking the kids back so abruptly? Does she wish she'd done anything differently?
Basically I walked away feeling like she was really focused on herself and her own needs. Her story was very thought provoking, and I am not criticizing her, but if you're looking for a burn recovery role model this may not be it. There's nothing wrong with that, but I was not (as the subtitle suggested) impressed with a story of triumph. It was a story of recovery.
on April 14, 2012
I live in Salt Lake City, and over the past few weeks I had heard or seen reviews of Mrs Nielson's books, all of them positive. I am not a member of the LDS faith,but I have lived happily here in Utah for many many years, and I am familiar with the LDS genre of "faith promoting stories". I decided to see for myself what "Heaven Is Here" was like, and I am forever grateful I did.
As a long time RN, I find stories of persevering through terrible injury or illness fascinating, and Mrs Nielson talks a great deal about the physical horror of surviving with burns over 80% of her body. Her insight into her thoughts, fears and terrors, especially at night, wil help me with my patients. I have been employed at the hospital in Utah where she recovered and I have my own stories about one of her MD's. So her narrative touched me through my familiarity with people and places she mentions.
But the special part of Stephanie's book, the part that made it hard to put down was her description of her faith and the grand support of her large tightly knit strongly religious family. Her parents and siblings and her own family of husband and 4 children suffered and yet made it possible for Stephanie to heal, cradled in their love. When she talks about her Jane who couldn't look at her, or her Nicholas, who didn't believe she was his Mommy for months, I cried. The part that touched me the deepest was Stephanie's awareness of her Nana Aurora, reaching from heaven to help Stephanie survive not only the plane accident but the perilous early days in the hospital when her life literally hung by a thread. Over my many years in nursing I have seen miracles of healing and heard people speak of spiritual experiences that I marvel at. I believe Stephanie's Nana was indeed there to help her through the hard parts.
I give this book my strongest recommendation. it is very well written,and the story flows easily. For those without a religious faith, have no fears. Mrs Nielson does not force her beliefs on readers - she just shares honestly what she has experienced and has felt through her life. For readers who do believe in God, you will feel the presence of God's blessing through the story. Because I am very familiar with much of Mormon beliefs, I understood things she references, and yet did not ever feel preached to.
I LOVE this book. I hope and pray that the Nielson family (which grew by another blessing, a baby girl on April 5th) has nothing but happiness and joy for the remainder of their lives. I pray that people who see Stephanie in public, instead of gawking at her scars, tell her "You have brought light and joy to me; may you and your family have the same.". May God continue to bless you. Stephanie and may the admiration of your readers boost you up.
on December 11, 2012
I feel like to understand this book you have to separate the journey from the person. The journey of a young mom getting into an airplane accident and her recovery from this is what will keep you turning page after page. This journey is a very brave one, and reading about the tremendous support Stephanie received and her progress from such was very heart-warming. I think Stephanie has great parents and siblings. On a personal note I did not particularly care for Stephanie's personality. I felt like there was definite self-absorption many times and that separate from the accident she has a needy personality that is waaayyy too obsessed with the cookie-cutter la de dah of fairy tales and sugary sweet fantasies many women obsess over. If you feel the same way as I do about Stephanie herself I encourage you to look beyond that at the journey and be inspired from it.
I discovered Stephanie's blog in the months following the plane crash that she survived. I heard about it through countless other blogs I read that were offering their support for Stephanie and her family. At the time no one knew what her recovery would look like. As I read through her blog page by page I felt so very sad for this remarkable family and what they were experiencing. I subscribed and hoped that one day Stephanie would be well enough to blog again. When I noticed many months later that there was an entry in Google Reader under NieNieDialogues I was excited! Ever since then I feel like Stephanie has taken her readers along with her as she goes through this new challenging chapter in life. I have so appreciated getting to read about her struggles and triumphs.
I had the chance to read Heaven Is Here before its April release date through the Vine Program. I picked the book up and poured a hot bath. A couple hours later I suddenly noticed the water was freezing cold...but the book was so good I stayed a little longer in the tub. It is not just a story of the horrible plane crash. It is a story about her falling in love with her husband, raising her children, and finding a passion (blogging) she could share with others. Our lives can change in a moment and it is what we do in the moments after that shape us. Stephanie survived a small plane crash with 80% of her body covered in burns. Her husband was burned as well, though not as badly. The instructor who was flying with them did not make it. After spending months in an induced coma Stephanie had the make the decision to give up or to pick up the pieces and move on. Of course it wasn't always easy (such as having her children see her for the first time with her burns) but she handled the situation with such grace.
Stephanie's faith is very clear throughout the book-- she is a Mormon. Though I do not share her same faith I think readers of all faiths and beliefs can find inspiration in her message to trust in a higher power.
Heaven is Here is an excellent and inspiring story. And the neat part is that the story goes on after the book is over; I highly recommend her blog NieNieDialogues as well.