on February 9, 2012
At the same time that Dr. Mary Neal was drowning in a river in Chile, her husband, Bill, appeared to me in a dream. Bill is an old friend of mine from high school. We had shared many adventures and confidences over the years, but neither he nor any other friend had ever stared at me in a dream and woke me up. I shook it off at the time, only to learn a few days or weeks later why I had seen him.
The story of her experiences from the drowning, through the repeated revivals and her ultimate survival are the events upon which this book is anchored. But the meat and meaning of it are in the unfolding of her life as guided and protected by her God. I'm obviously no disinterested party. Skeptics can be reassured by my report that if it came from Mary's pen, it will be the truth and the whole truth. I doubt, however, that her or anyone's personal account can penetrate fully into the modern psyche. That is, into those who think that they need proof of what we call God. As an account of a brush with the Hereafter, here have been many others similar to it, and they're well enough known to be used as shorthand in bad films.
What Mary and those like her have experienced are gifts from somewhere, given not just to them. She gives it back to us disguised as a simple offering. She doesn't baffle the reader with melodrama, hyperbole, fantasy, or excessive adjectives. She tells her story in a concise & detailed way, with a voice of eloquent and unadorned sincerity. In this way, it's easy to read and difficult to put down, vividly descriptive and completely convincing, humbling and inspiring.
Fortunately for us, she kept waking up in the middle of the night until she couldn't keep from writing it down for us. The reason to read this remarkable account is witness, which is one of the few ways that we have left to hack a little hole in our jungle of unbelief.
This book is a thoughtful memoir and spiritual journey by a remarkable woman. The author's medical training and experiences served, not to distance herself from a seemingly incomprehensible God who makes people suffer, but to draw her and her family closer to God by seeing His work in their lives.
Sometimes, I think it is much harder for people with a scientific turn of mind and training in the sciences and medicine to believe in God when all education is pretty much "it all happened by chance" and is indeed structured to teach that chance is the only reason things happen. Believe me, I went to school for 9 years after high school and all of that training was science and a lot was overlapping with the science that medical doctors study, because I studied biology, biochemistry and immunology. So I resonated with this book and Dr. Neal's journey--especially when she writes that "science and spirituality were assumed to be incompatible."
Interestingly, the description of drowning (the author nearly drowned in a river in Chile) is exactly what a friend of mine described to me had happened to him as a child. The patients who describe their spiritual experiences, rather than embarrass Dr. Neal, help her to see God is present and working in all of our lives. She keeps her eyes wide open and her faith becomes stronger, not weaker, in the face of many tragedies.
If you yourself are asking "Who is God, what is He, is there a God and how do I form a relationship with God?" this book could be an inspiring starting point. It is gripping, the stories are real-life and huge. The author really delves into the meaning of her actions, her struggles with career and family, in the problem of trying to live up to the fiction "you can do it ALL (and do it well)" and where God fits into a busy professional career. If you are struggling with issues like this, especially if you are a mom who works outside the home with a career and is finding life becoming overwhelming and not fulfilling in some way, this book may resonate with you, too. Recommended.
on December 27, 2011
In our analytical, data driven world, we are lulled into the belief that we know it all, or at least we can research what we don't know. That eliminates the leap of faith it takes to take part in many of the most rewarding experiences in life. If we spent time analyzing all the possible problems associated with experiences like having and raising children, getting married, moving to a new town and starting a career, most of us would stay in bed. Mary Neal has shown us that there is so much in our world that we can't actually see, but must take a leap of faith and believe. Her story is told in such a way that we are drawn in and vicariously experience all that she went through. After finishing the book, it's impossible not to continue to mentally revisit her experiences, and notice all that is holy in our own lives. This book shows you that faith comes in many forms, and can be strengthened through our interactions with those in our lives. It is hard to put this book down once you start it.
on June 1, 2012
While reading Dr Neal's book I kept coming back to that line from Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." This book isn't a cozy read - parts are downright excruciating to hear and difficult to imagine. It can't be easy for her to tell it, except for a strange grace she was given. I imagine that folks who read it to with an eye to validating a firmly-held dogmatic religious or agnostic position will be irritated. She isn't proselytizing or apologizing - she is simply relaying the facts of her own strange tale with an almost unadorned precision. In thinking about it, that's precisely the power of this book - Dr Neal is a hard person to dismiss. She doesn't seem fanciful or eccentric or disenfranchised or neurotic or a religious fanatic or needy or any of the traits I had expected. Her voice rings out unusually clear and fresh, cool and concise. It's because of this, even more than her impressive resume, that I find her credible.
The actual tale is emotionally moving, occasionally disturbing, spiritually and intellectually challenging. At the end of it I find myself with a sense of wonder that life is more beautiful than we can conceive, that there is more going on than anyone can imagine, that the Creator is impossible to wrap into a tidy, presentable box, because our ideas about Him are too cramped and small. Ultimately I am left with an ever-growing hope we can live fearlessly, that we will see our loved ones again, that they are near and that all is well, here and there. GREAT READ!
on July 18, 2012
I will say that this book was well written and very easy to read. Unfortunately, like so many other NDE-type books out there, it fails to go in-depth regarding the questions and answers of what it's like after we die. I don't expect it to be a theology lesson, but let's face it, the whole reason most of us buy a book like this is to get a real glimpse of the afterlife. Without that component, it's just another basic biography. I was able to read the book in one sitting and she did answer a few questions about her afterlife experience but nothing that she hasn't already said in numerous interviews that can be found on the web. I was really hoping for something new that she hadn't already stated on television or radio. I feel that of all the NDE speakers out there, she seems to be one of the most credible and sincere in her account. If you want to save the cost of this book, I recommend just listening to her account given on a Coast-to-Coast interview which can be found on You Tube. Although the interview didn't go into her family life as much, all the basic info of her NDE can be heard in the radio interview.
on December 2, 2011
I am a realistic, analytical person and at times a skeptic. Dr. Mary Neal's book, " To Heaven and Back" was both inspirational and compelling. The descriptions of her experiences were presented in factual, quantitative and colorful detail. She was faced with the difficult task of returning to her earthly body and then literally having to survive her journey home. Her point of view on death itself is reassuring. After reading her book, I am left to ponder my own situations, God's presence in them, choices that we all must make and Angels who watch over us all. To Heaven and Back: The True Story of a Doctor's Extraordinary Walk with God (Volume 1)
on May 11, 2012
Dr. Neal was given a wonderful gift of being shown what her purpose here on Earth is, and then was brave enough to share it with the world. From my interpretation of the book Dr. Neal was never searching for miraculous experiences. It is shown time and time again in her story that she had doubts about her faith. Her encounters were a precious gift that I can see Dr. Neal feeling undeserving of and yet she chose to embrace the gift that she was given and recount her life story so that others could potentially see the light within their dark times.
Dr. Neal writes with assurance that God is the higher power and that heaven is real, without pushing any specific religion on the reader. I sat as a Catholic reading her account and thought that this story would be a wonderful read to a Baptist, Non denominational Christian, Lutheran, Mormon, or anyone that knows or doesn't know that God exists. This is a human persons account of many different experiences over the years of her life. It is not the bible or any authoritative Christian literature, it is simply a tale of a woman's life and how God worked for her and helped her through.
This story is unbelievable simply because as mere human beings it is hard to fathom how great and powerful God truly is. We cannot mentally wrap our heads around what God does because we are not God. It's hard to believe in something that you did not see first hand, but through Mary's eyes one catches a glimpse of what amazing works God does each and every day. As the old saying goes, seeing is not believing, believing is seeing. One can spend just a few minutes watching Dr. Neal's interview on Fox News[...] to see that not only is Dr. Neal sincere, but she also was not a highly spiritual woman looking for God in every moment of her day. She was an ordinary woman who was given an extraordinary gift from God to catch just a glimpse of the amazing wonderful plans that he has for her and others.
I encourage anyone that has doubts about Dr. Neal's ambitions or motivation to visit her website. She has addressed the many questions that have come up regarding her book at [...] The rest of her website[...] will show you where Dr. Neal's motivation lies.
"To Heaven and Back" is a beautiful account of Dr. Neal's journey. Her story is her story, it's one that can motivate and encourage, but ultimately it is her journey and no one else's. If you are looking for a fantastic read, look no further and order Dr. Neal's story today.
on June 23, 2012
I make my living reading, so I rarely take to reading for pleasure - my eyes just need the rest. For this reason, I have not purchased a book in a very, very long time. But I was compelled to buy this one after seeing Mary on several shows during her press trek. What was compelling for me is that she is a doctor, and has had a history of training for careful examination and observation. She didn't seem like she was trying to sell anything. She seemed like she was living out her calling to tell others what she'd experienced, no matter how uncomfortable that would be for her. I could sense her discomfort with her interviewers, and in some, I saw almost a little fear in her eyes that they would react to her negatively. After all, this is a far-out story for a non-believer, and even some that do believe (as seen in some of the reviews on this site) have a hard time ingesting another's story of having seen a taste of heaven. I for one just want to sit down with her and hear every single detail she can recall. I love my Lord, and I can't wait to get to heaven, and I will NEVER discount another Christian's experience on their journey, even if I don't hold to the same tenets or traditions. God is not bound by our understanding or knowledge. If she says she experienced it, then she experienced it.
I did not come to this book to try to believe more. I already believe He is omnipresent and interactive in my world in probably more ways than I am aware of. I came to this story because it was written by someone who seems as pragmatic and sensical as I am. I bought the book to get a glimpse of what it will be like because I cannot wait for the day to enter that hall myself. If there was anything that the book lacked, it was every single little detail that she experienced and remembers. I just can't get enough - and I hunger for it like no other hunger.
If anything, let Mary's overall message be what you take from this book - if you are a disciple of Christ, get about the business of God...every day. There is no time to waste.
Thank you, Mary, particularly for being brave to tell your story and write the book. I'm sure it's tough taking the criticism. Brush it off. I'm so glad I bought this book.
on May 17, 2012
As soon as I saw Mary Neal's interview on Fox, I ordered her book on Kindle. The length of her NDE seemed particularly long. While her story does offer a bit more than many, it would have been fascinating if she could have related more about the period following her accident, where she seemed to hover between the spirit world she had just visited and the physical world she just returned to. In this state she seemed able to continue her communications with angels. Would love to know how her questions were answered.
The book is very engrossing and her high character shines through. She comes across as a reluctant author, who feels compelled to relate her story for a higher purpose, which makes her tale believable, though incredible. Seeing Providence at work in her life is reassuring. Even though she presents things through Christian eyes, so much of it rings true to the Jewish faith, as I understand it. As a bereaved parent, I could relate to her heartbreaking story as well.
Her story is a compelling read, offers a tantalizing glimpse of the spiritual word and seems to resonate with universal truths across many boundaries.
on June 26, 2012
I purchased "To Heaven And Back..." based on the title of the book - a subject that I find very interesting. The book is self-described as "A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again". Of the four, (Death, Heaven, Angels, Life Again) the book is really about her "life again". In fact, the author gives very short shrift to her "extraordinary account" of what experiencing Heaven and Angels are really like. I found the book to be self-indulgent and a written affirmation of the author's struggles to remain faithful to her religious ideals. While the author believes that God is ever-present in our lives and sometimes intervenes for a greater good that only God knows in advance (and the author figures out later down the road), I couldn't help but feel that the author kept having to remind herself, rather than the reader, of this fact. Where the author really lost me was when she interjected her liberal politics into the mix. The book is more about how the author chooses to live her life and her brand of faith rather than a description of her Heavenly experience. If you want to enjoy a much better read on the subject of what a Heavenly experience is about (sans politics), pick up "Heaven Is For Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story Of His Trip To Heaven And Back" by Todd Burpo. That book moved me. This one didn't.