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.
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 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 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.
on November 14, 2012
I was disappointed that the subject matter did not address the title to any great extent. More time was spent giving credentials of the priest, etc. which was not relevant. Expected more.
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 December 1, 2016
I have been reading afterlife books for over 20 years. This is one of the worst books I have read on this topic. If you are expecting a glimpse of the afterlife, you will be sadly disappointed. The title is horribly misleading. To Heaven and Back? A normal person would assume this book would reveal a few secrets of Heaven. Not so. The author claimed to visit Heaven and the angels say, it's not your time. Then she goes back. That's IT! Then she writes a book on her ‘experience.’ What experience?
That would be like flying to Africa, landing, and taking the next flight home 30 minutes later. Then writing a book entitled, ’My Journey to Africa.’ That's basically what this author did. Highly fraudulent.
The book is horribly boring. It's mostly Bible Filler. Another reviewer said the same thing -- ‘too much filler.’ Another wrote, ‘Little to do with Heaven.’ Another said, she wrote ‘almost nothing about Heaven.’ Another said -- ‘The author promised much, delivered little.’
If you really want a glimpse of Heaven, there are far better books out there. Start with Betty Eadie's book, ‘Embraced by the Light.’ A masterpiece. Then read George Ritchie's book ‘Return from Tomorrow.’ It's an eternal classic. I read this once a year, and I am on the edge of my seat each time. Then read, Dannion Brinkley's book, ‘Saved by the Light.’ Brinkley has three books. They are all great!. I love that guy.
Then read, ‘The Soul's Remembrance’ by Roy Mills. Not many know about this book. A spiritual masterpiece. Roy writes about the Prayer Room in Heaven -- where ALL prayers are heard and evaluated. This is the only book I know of that discusses the Prayer Room. One other great book is ‘I Saw Heaven.’ by Arthur E. Yensen. This book is all heart and soul. It's about his spiritual experience that happened in 1932. As Arthur wrote, ‘Heaven is the Real Life -- and worry is the most foolish thing you can do! Don't worry about what happens to you while on earth, but concentrate on how you live and develop spiritually.’ The book is an eternal treasure. Hard to find.
You read these books, and you will get a great idea of what Heaven is like. God bless you.
on January 22, 2013
I made it through four chapters of this book and then quit reading because it was so unbelievable.
First, what responsible parent would allow their fifteen-year-old daughter to quit school-even though she was to receive credit for her time abroad-and travel by herself to a remote location in the mountains of Mexico to work with a missionary couple who, though "untrained," provided medical treatment to the local population. The author expects her readers to believe that she was responsible for all obstetrical care, including deliveries, and performed cesarean sections with the guidance of an "outdated medical book."
She then recounts her first open-water scuba diving experience, which took place after dark, and describes the "splendor of the fish and the variety of the colors and shapes of the coral." I hate to tell her, but those colors and shapes would not be visible underwater in the dark.
Although To Heaven and Back is my book club's next reading selection,I will not be finishing it.
on November 6, 2012
I really enjoy books about near death experiences and have read many of them. With that said, I was disappointed in this one. At first it seemed interesting. But as I kept reading I noticed that the author contradicted herself. She talks of being scientific minded and skeptical but is so quick to believe coincidences as signs and communication from the dead. Where's the proof? I am bothered by the belief that so many incidents are attributed to her son or her step father such as the tree and the flowers. She spoke of the owl that she had never seen before and not seen since. Most owls are elusive. They're very hard to find. I was also bothered by the belief that we exist before we are born and that we have an angel that helps us plan our lives. Really? I think many people would not have chosen the plan for the life they have. I hate to touch on the subject about her son. But I found that to be extremely sad and must have been very painful for her and her family. I can't imagine that kind of pain. I found her attributing things to him that didn't make sense. In reality he might have done good in his small sphere of influence but he didn't change the world. And, that's okay. We all need to influence for the good in the small area we influence.
Her and her husband were so foolish to fly back on an airplane in her condition. That could have greatly inconvenienced the plane and passengers not to mention the problems of making an emergency landing for a sick passenger. There would have been an increased cost to the airline in fuel, crew, and landing fees that would have been in the thousands of dollars.
This is what I think: I think she had a NDE and was revived on the shore of the river. But I think that while she was in the hospital she was hallucinating from pain medication and maybe because of the infection. And as a doctor she should know that pain medications, especially morphine produce very real hallucinations. I think that's where she got off track. And then I think she kept adding to it. She has changed her story at different times.
So, I wouldn't recommend this book. So disappointing.
on June 12, 2012
In this day and age of hyper-information, this written experience by a medical doctor of her encounter with God, and the subsequent events, stands out. Although the market is filled with accounts of every day people and their personal spiritual journey, this book helps clarify certain common themes, such as: what happens when you die; the fact that we all are given a final choice in the eternal question between good and evil; and why are bad things allowed to happen by a benevolent deity.
I found the fact that Dr. Neal is not only a medical doctor, but a surgeon, to be of particular interest. Her unflinching almost scientific observations of her personal experiences help ground this book in fact. Certain books of this type are prone to hyper inflationary descriptions of heaven, of angels, etc. Dr. Neal simply and accurately describes her observations. This book almost reads itself, and is so simply written that a child could read it. The simplicity itself is the key - there is no attempt at artifice. Its simplicity bares open certain truths in life that we all wish were true, and so few of us find - that it is possible to have a personal experience of the divine. Dr Neal shares her formula for living after such an encounter, which is: find joy and live it, pray constantly, give thanks.
In summation, I find this to be a message of hope in a bleak landscape of literature filled with bloodsucking vampires, flesh eating ghouls, satan worshiping cults, etc. Its a reminder that though evil certainly exists, the war for our souls has already been won. We just need to remember where we came from, and whence we are headed. This book serves as that reminder.