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Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope,…
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Heaven Is Here: An Incredible Story of Hope, Triumph, and Everyday Joy

by Stephanie Nielson

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On August 16, 2008, an airplane carrying husband and wife Christian and Stephanie Nielson, along with flight instructor and Nielson friend Doug Kinneard, crashed in St. Johns, Arizona. Confident that his wife was right behind him, Christian got out of the plane and Stephanie awoke to a wall of flames in front of her. She made it out of the wreckage, but all three passengers were in devastatingly critical condition. Doug wouldn't survive. Christian was burned over 30% of his body and had a broken back. Stephanie was burned over 80% of her body. Both were in medically-induced comas; Christian for weeks and Stephanie for months.

Heaven Is Here is Stephanie memoir and it is beautiful, moving and life-affirming. I had started reading Stephanie's blog, www.nieniedialogues.com, about a year after her accident and I remember crying when I read about what had happened and saw all the photos of her and Christian and their four children before the accident. I remember thinking how difficult it must have been - and still is - for the family to pick up the pieces and try to move forward. But reading the blog and, now, reading the book has given me a new perspective. I so admire the grace and strength of Stephanie and her whole family. I admire her courage and determination and perseverance and the hope she shares.

This book has taught me so much - about my own self and my own faith and my own ability to share and spread hope. And, especially for me, a woman who, for much of her life has felt like an ugly duckling, this passage from Heaven Is Here was very moving and thought-provoking:

"I know, now, without a doubt that the true source of happiness, self-worth, and authentic beauty doesn't come from the outside. Women are constantly being persuaded to want something unachievable, to look younger or thinner and above all to fit in because being different is too painful and embarrassing. I have accepted myself in a world that does not accept me, because I have learned -- and more than any of the lessons of my accident, this is the one I wish I could teach everybody -- that our hearts matter most. Your heart matters moves, so be gentler and more patient with yourself, and their hearts matter most, too, so be kinder and more compassionate to others. It's a beautiful heart, not a perfect body, that leads to a beautiful life." ( )
  Jenna.Czaplewski | Jul 3, 2014 |
I really don't know how anyone could fail to be inspired by Stephanie's story. Just be warned: have a box of Kleenex handy.

4.5 stars. ( )
  fefferbooks | May 12, 2014 |
This book is split into three parts. The first takes place before the Nielsons' accident, the second starts after the accident, and the third starts after Stephanie comes home from the hospital.

The first part is important in terms of setting up the story, especially in terms of establishing the life that Stephanie had before her accident. However, that part of the story can also come off as a little annoying, since it's basically a recitation of how great her life was and how she more or less had everything that she had ever wanted (perfect husband, perfect cute house, lots of perfect children). I honestly found myself flipping forward in the book quite a few times while I was reading the first part.

As soon as the second part starts, the book becomes very compelling. Stephanie's struggle to come to grips with her accident, her road to recovery and her new body is heartbreaking, especially since every challenge that she faces seems to fracture into a dozen different challenges. (E.g., for months, her goal is to recover enough that she can leave the hospital and be home with her children. However, when she finally goes home, one of her daughters is so upset by her changed appearance that she won't look her in the eye, and her toddler sobs at night for his mommy because he thinks that Stephanie's sister, who has been taking care of him for six months, is is real mother.)

This is a compelling, well-written book and my standard rating for such a book would be 4/5 stars. (I reserve higher ratings for books I have read multiple times.) However, I found that I couldn't give it such a high rating, for reasons that I couldn't quite identify at first.

Here's what I finally decided: If you think that Stephanie Nielson's life was perfect before her accident, you will find this book very compelling and inspiring. If, however, you idealize a different sort of life, you may find this book frustrating. Although Stephanie overcomes great physical, mental, and emotional challenges in this story, she has a blind spot when it comes to understanding people with different values or perspectives and meeting them on their own terms, and that's not something that changes throughout this particular journey. So, while I enjoyed this book, it may not be for everyone. ( )
  Katya0133 | Oct 25, 2013 |
(199) ( )
  activelearning | Dec 23, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Heaven is Here is a very inspiring story and I loved reading how she overcame all the obstacles in her life. However, I cannot help but keep remembering a statement she made when moving to New Jesery. I got the feeling she was unhappy over the Madonna statues in yards. I guess that just sort of really offended me, but I continued reading the book and cheering her on as she progressed through her recovery. I am really surprised her editor allowed the statement against the statues as that is a strong part of many peoples faith. This good story was really overshadowed by this comment to me.
  bgherman | Aug 18, 2012 |
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A poignant and inspirational memoir that chronicles Stephanie Nielson's life before and after the horrific plane crash that changed her path forever.

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