I do not know whether my timing in reading this book was wise or folly, as I am currently grieving the complete loss of relationship with a child. I'm not going into details about what that phrase means, so don't bother asking and check yourselves that you don't make assumptions or judge. What I can say is that a complete break of relationship feels a whole lot like death, even though your logic tries to yell to your emotions, "It's not the same!" Ask anyone whose spouse divorced them "out of the blue," and if I were a gambling person, I bet they could describe a period of mourning the loss of relationship with their loved one. Enough of that. Back to the review.
I remember hearing about a 12-year-old boy who was swept away in a flash flood years ago. I remember it because of the daunting news that his body had been found pinned by the force of the water in or by a culvert (drainage pipe). My parents always warned me never to go near those, even when it seems dry, because of the dangers that can lurk there. If I remember correctly, the emphasis was on the fact that wild animals occasionally made homes in them and I could easily break an ankle. I never thought I would read the mother's first-hand account, or be touched so deeply by her narration of the event that I had heard in passing and tried desperately not to allow my mind to dwell on.
This book is not all about grief, although it naturally outlines the stages of grief appropriately. "Grief isn't linear as I had imagined. I hear somewhere that it's more of a spiral, where we have to come to the same places, again and again, but each time we've risen a little farther out of the pit," she writes about the one-year marker. Earlier she profoundly expresses, "No one has ever told me grief feels a lot like shame." This book starts off with a beautiful, vibrant description of her son, Jack, and the unique and irreplaceable role he played in their family. Although I went into the book knowing he would die, my heart wrenched with hope that he would not as I read the inner dialogue of his loving mother. His ordinary mother. She wasn't neglectful or fancy-rich. She wasn't in a distant country or living near a rapid river. She was far too much like me in many ways. As an author, this is excellent relate- ability. As a reader, this means your emotions are along for the ride, no matter what you tried to convince yourself before opening the cover.
I recommend this book because it helps us to imagine "walking a mile in another's shoes." It reminds us we are not invincible, nor are our children untouchable, despite our delusions of protecting them from ALL harm. It encourages us to seek out God's hand and believe His comfort and blessings are there despite the storms of life raging around us. However, I faithfully alert readers to content which may be objectionable to some because I feel this is part of providing a thorough review. My intention in bringing this up is not to judge Anne's actions, but to let people know content in advance for their personal discernment. I have said and done things in a state of grief that I certainly would not say, do, or recommend to others under other circumstances.
I do not feel the author urges anyone to engage in the same activities, but she shares her experiences speaking with an "Intuitive," a person who claims to be able to "experience Jack" after he has already passed away from life on this earth and resides in Heaven. The Intuitive not only claims to see and speak to Jack, but to have specific messages from him to his mother, at one point the Intuitive encourages, in a somewhat indirect way, Ann to begin talking out loud to Jack so that he can hear her. The Bible specifically forbids contacting mediums of any sort, but naturally this brings up controversy as not everyone agrees with what God clearly states. There's an article called "I See Dead People" on Christian Research Institute's website (equip.org) which respectfully, clearly, and thoroughly discusses some differing viewpoints.
Also, at one point her son had questions about Heaven and was curious as to what it would be like. Anne turned to popular books and movies about people claiming to have near death experiences to gain information and comfort about what Heaven is like. Again, I advocate that we go straight to God's Word, not relying on another person's emotional and potentially imaginary account to learn about a very real place that is described with more detail than we realize in the Bible. There would be no way to validate that a person has gone to Heaven and returned; you either take their word for it or you don't. The author of "The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven" admitted the book was based on a lie. I didn't think the Bible had many details about Heaven until I read Randy Alcorn's book called "Heaven." Randy collects all the fragments of Scripture that mention Heaven and places them in one resource, which can be read straight through as a study, or picked up like a Q&A and read in segments of interest.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books for the purpose of reviewing.