Amanda's Reviews > Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
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Dec 04, 13


So I'll preface this by saying the following:
1.) I would have never read this of my own accord. I read it only for book club.
2.) I was skeptical going in.
3.) Though I'm a born-and-raised Catholic, I would classify myself as an agnostic, at best.
4.) I'll also admit I skimmed huge chunks of this book. It was the only way I was going to get through it at all. It was worse than I expected.

Things that Bothered Me (in no particular order):
1.) The first half of the book is the father rambling about his illnesses. Yes, I'm very sad the guy had kidney stones and breast cancer and [some other ailment I can't remember]...but I don't see what any of that has to do with the kid getting sick.

2.) If this was all so moving, why did they wait seven years before writing the book?

3.) The kid is 11 now. Don't you think that's old enough that he could have wrote the book on his own? Or at least contributed a chapter in his own words?

4.) Others have said this, but it bears repeating: isn't it convenient that this miracle happened to a pastor's kid? The dad keeps going on and on about how Colton just "couldn't have known" about so much of this religious stuff. Really? Kids are remarkably perceptive. I would find this all much more moving if it had happened to a kid who had never heard "the good word."

5.) The parents only dragged the story out of the kid over the course of years. As a parent, this is extremely odd to me. If my kid started telling me one day he'd been to heaven, you better believe I'd be asking some questions, and right now, not five years later.

Finally (and this verges on a rant), it kind of annoys me how many Christians are saying that this changed their life / moved them to be better parents / etc... I'm sorry...you have the Bible. The WORD OF GOD isn't enough for you? It takes a fairy tale as told by a three year old to convince you that maybe you should get your act together and start acting like a Christian?

Fundamentally, I was just the wrong person to read this book. I am not its target audience. A belief in heaven presupposes a belief in God. Until you can sell me on that, there's not much this (poorly written, highly questionable) book is going to do for me.

ETA (2/2012): I think it's pretty clear I think this particular book is crap. However, if you're interested in first-hand, post-death experiences, I'd suggest reading, "90 Minutes in Heaven". It's similar in its premise--a man dies, spends 90 minutes in heaven, comes back and tells his story--, BUT it's experienced by an adult and told by that same adult. (Unlike "Heaven", which is merely the dad's retelling of the kid's story.) I read it several years ago, but remember being much more impressed by it. I will offer the caveat that I was a much better Catholic/Christian at that time than I am now, so that likely colored my perception of the book. However, even accounting for that, "90 Minutes" is certainly the better written book.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 53) (53 new)


message 1: by Kayleen (new)

Kayleen not very astounding?


Ambyr Stanley I LOVED the book and am a Christian, yet I loved reading your review and still agree with everything you said. Don't know how that's possible but kudos to you for making it happen haha.


message 3: by Violet (new)

Violet Althouse I agree with you. I too am a Christian, but I really think your points are valid. I agree that it would be really hard to believe that this child didn't pick up anything religious or Biblical living in the same house as his Pastor dad. I also agree with the comment about the Word of God not being good enough for some Christians to make them better parents.


Tiani I totally disagree with you on every point you have put forth on what bothered you.


Amanda Tiani wrote: "I totally disagree with you on every point you have put forth on what bothered you."

I guess that only leaves me puzzled. There's nothing for you to disagree with. I listed the points that bothered me. It's a matter of opinion, not fact.


Shannon I agree with your entire review. You said pretty much word for word what i thought about this book. It's this guy's job to convince people to believe in god, how convenient that his son happened to have this oh so miraculous and uninfluenced experience.


Tiani Well maybe it is more of a matter of fact than you care to realise, it seems to me that the people who have rated this book with 1 star read it with a closed mind (some didn't read it all) and were full of critism. I guess for your sakes you may hope it is not a true story.


message 8: by Amanda (last edited Jan 31, 2012 01:05PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Amanda Tiani, dear, did you actually read my review? Or did you see one star and conclude immediately that I must be an unrepentant heathen in desperate need of salvation?

To paraphrase you, it seems to me that you read my review with a closed mind. Try reading it again. I think you will see that many of the points I made had little to do with the subject of the book. Regardless of the topic, I found it to be a poorly written, poorly organized, and unconvincing book. It may interest you to know that my mother, who is a devout Catholic, agrees with my review on all points. It may further interest you to know that I have also read, "90 Minutes in Heaven", a similar story told by an adult, and enjoyed it.

Finally, I suspect that once you grow up a little and venture beyond your own swing-set, you will find the world is not quite as black and white as you would like to believe.

(PS-- I am curious to know if you took the time to try to "save" the author of every one star review.)


message 9: by Tom (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tom I'm sorry that you were forced to read the book. I agree with you that the book was a little hokey and that there certainly is abundant fertilizer for seeds of skepticism about the account of what happened. As a scientist who is Catholic, I'm still not sure I believe entirely everything that happened to little Colton Burpo. The beauty of our faith is that it comes down to faith. However, your review made me think of a quote I just read in a book that is taken from the movie, The song of Bernadette: " for those with faith no explanation is necessary, for those without faith no explanation is sufficient."

If you are still interested in near-death experiences, I would strongly recommend the book by Jeffrey Long who is an oncologist and takes a more scientific approach. It's still a bit hokey and not completely sound in his scientific approach, but it might be good.

God bless.


message 10: by Amanda (last edited Jan 31, 2012 07:21PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Amanda Tom wrote: "I'm sorry that you were forced to read the book. I agree with you that the book was a little hokey and that there certainly is abundant fertilizer for seeds of skepticism about the account of what ..."

That one does look more interesting, Tom. I'll check it out! Also, The Song of Bernadette looks good, too. Though I'm a lapsed Catholic, old habits die hard...I do still occasionally enjoy reading Catholic lore.

I'm truly not as hardened to God as this review might lead one to believe. While I'm not sure I buy into the Christian view of God, I remain open to the idea of some kind of higher power.

I was just really unimpressed with this particular book.


message 11: by Sharon (new)

Sharon I believe in a higher power, although that doesn't necessarily include white robes and purple sashes. I found this book a little "unbelievable." It sounds like Colten "saw" what has been presented to him in his family life. Colten's "freaking out" at the funeral because the dead man may not have accepted Jesus, really bothered me. I also didn't particularly like all the scripture that this book included...it wasn't needed to tell this "story".....


message 12: by Niquee333 (new)

Niquee333 I was considering reading this book when my 13 year old stepson had shown interest in it. I am an avid reader and have an open mind. I am so glad I read your review. I think your response to Tiani is valid and hilarious. Sounds like someone didn't actually read your review. I have not read the book, I can imagine I would have the same opinion I am still unsure of whether my stepson should read it he can be quite impressionable but, I suppose he can to come to his own conclusions and believe what he wants. Would you want your kids to read it? Or would you save them the time? I still may read it anyway, can't resist a train wreck.


message 13: by Tom (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tom Amanda- you made me think that this book is also probably not a 4 star book as I rated it as first. The writing could have been much better. I now changed my rating to 2 stars. It was a sweet book, and there were some nice ideas about how heaven might be.


Tiani Amanda wrote: "Tiani, dear, did you actually read my review? Or did you see one star and conclude immediately that I must be an unrepentant heathen in desperate need of salvation?

To paraphrase you, it seems ..."


Listen love, I am sorry if i mis-read your reveiw, but the rest of your comment is not worth answering or my time.


message 15: by Amanda (last edited Feb 02, 2012 06:39AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Amanda Niquee333 wrote: "Would you want your kids to read it? Or would you save them the time? ..."

I'll start by saying I might be the wrong person to ask, but only because I can't think of any book I wouldn't let my kid read. My own mom was let me read whatever I wanted (including Danielle Steele in sixth grade) and I have the same philosophy.

That said, I wouldn't see any problem with letting my kid read it. It's sappy (and poorly written), but there's nothing inherently bad about it. I mean really, what's the worst that could happen? Even if he ends up believing it whole-heartedly, it's really not a bad thing. And I suspect as he grows older, he'll look back on the book a little more critically.

As for you: the book really is a train wreck. If you've got an extra hour (seriously...that's all it took), it might be good for some eye-rolling. And you'd know what your stepson was reading, in the event he wanted to discuss it with you.

If you're actually interested in after-death/heaven experiences, I'd suggest, "90 Minutes in Heaven". It's a similar story, as experienced by an adult. I read it several years ago, but remember enjoying it much more. I will offer the caveat that several years ago I was a much better Catholic/Christian than what I am now, so that might have colored my perception of the book. But at the very least, it was certainly better written.


Schenley well said


Hännah Marie I did find the story interesting, but also agree with all of the things that bothered you. I suppose it could have potentially been a good book and I liked the concept. I would be more interested in the little girl's story who drew the picture of Jesus. I found it extremely odd that it took years for the story to unfold.


message 18: by drowningmermaid (new)

drowningmermaid If you're still interested in near-death experiences, I'd recommend "Fingerprints of God" by Barbara Hagerty. It looks at some of the neuroscience of religious experience and it spends a good section of the book on near-death experiences from a variety of angles. Although it's written by an evangelical, it's very open-minded, (unlike the childish pomposity that occasionally appears on one-star reviews. Makes me embarrassed for my upbringing, even though I'm no longer an evangelical myself.) and she bases her conclusions on science, even when it disagrees with contemporary Christian doctrine.


Jason Gardner Sadly Amanda does not realize that it's not that this book is BETTER than the word of God, it's the corroborating element that a book like this provides that changes lives.


Amanda Jason wrote: "Sadly Amanda does not realize that it's not that this book is BETTER than the word of God, it's the corroborating element that a book like this provides that changes lives."

If you have the Word of God, then why do you need corroborating evidence? God killed his only begotten son for you...and you need a four year old to tell say, "Hey, guys! God's serious!"?


message 21: by drowningmermaid (new)

drowningmermaid Sadly, Jason does not realize that near-death experiences like these are a dime a dozen, and invariably correlate with whatever beliefs the temporarily deceased embraced during life. No one ever comes back saying, "OMG, the fundamentalist _____s have it right!" except for those who are themselves fundamentalist _____s.

I personally know someone who "died" during his heart transplant at age 5. He saw absolutely nothing while dead. Maybe he should write a book.


Cassie I'm a Christian and I actually agree with some of your points Amanda. Could this little boy have actually died and gone to heaven? Why sure, but his father over reacts to every little piece of information that Colton gives him. I'm a preachers kid, and just through sitting in church all of my life, I knew the same things that Colton knew at the very same age. No one has to sit down and tell you those things. At that age your brain is a sponge and you will remember anything, even random things. So yeah I think this may have actually happened, mainly because of Coltons actions right after the surgery, but I don't see why it would so greatly impact a Christians life. Influence, sure, there are a lot of things in life that can influence you to be a better person, but totally change? I don't think so. If this book can change you, but God's Word can't, then you may want to check up on your relationship with Him.


Julie Quite frankly I think your ignorant. Sometimes God uses other means other than the Bible to get His Word across- kids are sponges but there is no way this little boy knew so many details. If you didn't read this with an open mind then that's your loss. The father didn't write this book for quite some time because perhaps he researched his editors and since he isn't a writer it took some time to pull
it together- after all- he is a Pastor and not a writer and he almost lost his son so give the guy a break- jeez. God uses many different ways other than the Bible to get people to believe that He is in fact God father to our Savior and his son Jesus Christ.


Amanda Julie wrote: "Quite frankly I think your ignorant. Sometimes God uses other means other than the Bible to get His Word across- kids are sponges but there is no way this little boy knew so many details. If you di..."

I'M ignorant....but you don't know the different between "your" and "you're". Oh, the irony...


Linda Abuelghanam There is another book written to refute this book. It is called "Heaven is Real. The Book is Not"


Katie Amanda, because you skipped huge chunks of the book, maybe you missed the part where Colton wanted to write a book about it (and there is actually a children's version from his memory and perspective) but doesn't remember much of what he saw and said because he was so little. That is why his dad wrote the book, being that he does remember exactly what Colton had said so many years ago.


Katie Also to add, Colton did say many things that did not correspond with his father's beliefs. One specific example was when he briefly discussed seeing Mary. Most Christians besides Catholics do not have a special devotion for Mary and do not take such note of her other than being the Mother of Jesus. Colton's father was surprised he mentioned Mary because of this. Essentially, certain things Colton said could not have been overheard from his father.


message 28: by Amanda (last edited Jun 05, 2012 11:15AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Amanda Katie wrote: "Amanda, because you skipped huge chunks of the book, maybe you missed the part where Colton wanted to write a book about it (and there is actually a children's version from his memory and perspecti..."

First of all, I skimmed, I did not skip; there is a big difference.

Second, if his dad wrote the book because Colton doesn't remember, then why is Colton going around giving talks? Shouldn't his dad be doing the talking, instead?

Third, how does Colton "seeing" Mary contradict his father's beliefs? True, only Catholics have a special devotion to Mary. But why would she not be in heaven? Do other religions believe that Mary was banned or otherwise exluded from heaven?

Finally, I remained baffled that so many believers find it necessary to tell me how wrong I am. For heaven's sake, it's a book review. If you disagree, do a review of your own or nominate Colton for the sainthood.


Jasmine Some people are upset that you're slamming their beliefs. It's perfectly natural. However, you seem to have missed a lot of the book. That might be part of the reason.


Scorpio2576 I think in the state of the world today, it's just nice to have a little hope for what lies ahead for us after we are gone from this earth.just because I am a Christian it doesn't make me overly religious and I also have doubts about things sometimes. I went thru some life changing things this year and almost died myself. I consider my recovery a miracle. My dads not a preacher. This kind of thing can happen to anyone. We are all entitled to our opinions, it's a free country. But you have to find your own belief in "religion". Not all of us Christians are one sided!! I understand your opinion on it though. I just don't fully agree.


message 31: by Emily (new)

Emily Entertaining review. I won't be reading this one. I'll have to add "90 min in heaven". "Return from Tomorrow" is another good one FYI.


message 32: by Mark (new)

Mark I have not read the book, so I can't comment on that. But as a pastor, I must say that I loved your rant about how the Word of God should be enough. You get that better than a lot of Christians I have met. I hope you someday come to know the God who gave us that Word.


message 33: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Green "
Fundamentally, I was just the wrong person to read this book. " It seems the only right people to read this book are fundamentalists. Frankly, the majority of us are the wrong people. Thank you very much for saving my time. I won't bother reading this pablum.


Kalli-jo Olson You have a very good review and although I don't agree with what you've said I would like to answer your questions
1) He explained his injuries in order to tell the reader why he went on the trip and show the families misfortune, and how they were losing faith in god
2) The Burpo's didn't write the book write after it happened because they wanted to know everything that happened before they write it down and make sure that Colton hasn't forgot to tell them anything. They also said, in the epilogue, that the weren't sure they wanted to make it public because they didn't know if Colton would want to be in the spotlight. Plus they said just thinking about how sick Colton was mad them terribly sad
3) I do agree that Colton could've wrote the book himself but he probably would've left out some key information being that in the story he was so nonchalant about everything that had happened to him so far. You also mentioned he could've helped with writing it and he probably did he's just not down as one of the authors.
4) I do agree its a bit annoying that it happened to a pastures son because many people think he just picked up the information from somewhere. I think the reason it happened to the Burpo's was because they were losing there faith in God after all of Todd's injuries and the doctors mistake in Imperial. If you read the last chapter though you might remember that this little girl had visions from heaven but her family were atheists. So this can happen to anyone.
5) I am not totally sure why they asked the questions over many years but maybe being he was so young they didn't want to frustrate him by asking so many questions or maybe he couldn't remember all of the things that happened to him until he really thought about it.
6) This part of your last question really stood out to me 'Isn't God's word enough?' Of course it is but if I remember anything from that book it says adults should be for like children. The bible is written by adults and its confusing to even the brightest people. It's so much easier to understand heaven at a child's point if view. Instead of naming the beautiful gemstones some used to describe the colors in heaven we can just call them rainbows. Plus it helps many of us Christians understand we don't have to be afraid of dying. I loved this book because I always believed in heaven but now I know for sure. Heaven is for real.


message 35: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna I love your review!


Leona Stangland How can you rate a book that you skimmed through huge chunks of?


message 37: by drowningmermaid (new)

drowningmermaid Leona wrote: "How can you rate a book that you skimmed through huge chunks of?"

Some people rate books they haven't read at all.
At least she freely acknowledged that she didn't read every word.


message 38: by drowningmermaid (new)

drowningmermaid Kerry wrote: "Ignore all the mad religious people, because I really don't wanna hear ANY MORE about how this "life changing book saved their lives" and how anyone who dare disagree with them is wrong. Yeah that..."

Ah, these mad religious people aren't so bad, in general. Try giving a one star to "Christmas Jars" or some other trite sentimental twaddle. Vicious Gangs of Old Ladies, the kind who like to sweeten their vitriol tea with extra sugar, will descend on you for attacking the Glorious MESSAGE of the badly written book. At least here everyone's out to duke it out over religion-- and haven't people always done that?


Tonya In regards to this paragraph, "Finally (and this verges on a rant), it kind of annoys me how many Christians are saying that this changed their life / moved them to be better parents / etc... I'm sorry...you have the Bible. The WORD OF GOD isn't enough for you? ..." The testimonies of other believers are like the kindling of our Faith to see how God is working and moving on this Earth every day.


Elise Your comments, thoughts, beliefs about this book are yours and I respect them. It really astounds me that you feel the way you do. I am an atheist, and I picked up the book because I heard good things about it. I read all types of books, so I figured trying one more type couldn't hurt. While I felt a lot of it was farfetched I still felt it was a beautiful story about family, love, faith, and belief in something bigger than ones own self.


message 41: by Joe (new) - rated it 1 star

Joe I will give you a big AMEN on you're review. I thought the whole book was just nonsense.


Alexis Remember when Colton was in surgery and the dad was in the room yelling at god? Well, I think that the reason for him explaining all his ailments was to explain why he was so angry with god.


Alexis Also, like it was explained, the story of Colton and Heaven was collected over years and months after his time in the hospital. The father clearly said that he didn't want to push Colton or put any thoughts into his head. He wanted the true story.
Lots of Christians believe that they go to heaven when they die and that they meet god and everything, but there's always doubt. How can you know for sure? Even if you are the most loyal believer, you have this doubt that it's not going to happen. I'm guessing that for a lot of people who said that book changed them, they realized that they believe that there really is a heaven. I think the principle applies to a lot of things. People can think or know that something is true or fake, but there's always this doubt that makes them want to know more.


message 44: by Dawn (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dawn Dysart There are individuals that have been blessed to see angels and experience a visit from Jesus. Not everybody talks about it.

Each persons experience happens for a reason!! I can tell you, Jesus is real..I have walked with him as a child and he came back to check on me.

#1 Who are we to question God in whom he chooses to visit??

#2 You asked why Colton and his father is a pastor. Ponder this. What bigger platform for his ministry? Todd was struggling in his own personal faith when God allowed this to happen. Colton was now having to teach the pastor. Just because one is a pastor, doesn't mean they have all the answers and are above needing help. Again, Todd's message was how they depended on the church family during their crisis when before they wouldn't have thought about it.

#3 Colton would not know all those facts regardless of his fathers profession at not even four years old.

#4 I believe Todd did a great job in keeping true to Colton's words and stories. If Colton wrote the book then it would be one for children and not one for adults to read. The father wrote it from a much broader perspective.

God brings you to the weakest point to show you that you aren't able to do anything without him. He is the ultimate and almighty.


message 45: by Sarah (new)

Sarah NightOwl Commented about spelling and grammar mistakes is kind of a pathetic way to argue. It could have been a typo or autocorrect mistake, and you are so obviously using this to avoid actually using real arguments. I'm talking about your statement to Julie, it was a pretty weak way to argue. You might as well just said "I don't know how to reply to your comment, so I am just going to point out something that is completely pointless, but there's a difference between "your" and "you're"."


message 46: by Kerry (new)

Kerry She said it two years ago...


message 47: by Sarah (new)

Sarah NightOwl Kerry wrote: "She said it two years ago..."

Doesn't matter.


message 48: by Kay (new)

Kay Comment on #3. I would find it quite remarkable for the average 11 year old American child (even assuming he is gifted in English composition) to write a novel on this scale, or even a decent chapter.


message 49: by drowningmermaid (new)

drowningmermaid Kay wrote: "Comment on #3. I would find it quite remarkable for the average 11 year old American child (even assuming he is gifted in English composition) to write a novel on this scale, or even a decent chap..."

Lily, Barbara Kingsolver's daughter, was about that age, when she contributed to "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle."

But you're right, I think 12 is the cutoff for being able to sign a book contract. And the resulting book would probably be less-than engaging.

Might be fair to say that some people just wanted to hear more from the kid himself.


Amanda I stand by my original point: the story was not Dad's to tell.


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