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Proof of Heaven by Mary Curran Hackett
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Jan 16, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: reviewed
Read from December 03 to 05, 2011

As children, we often go through a time where we question what happens when we die. Is there truly a heaven, or do we simply fade away? This is just one hurdle that the characters of Proof of Heaven try to clamber over. It’s boring, I know. It’s a question for adults who wear bow ties, and who are in possession of a PH. D to discuss. However, Mary Curran Hackett, the author of Proof of Heaven, makes this question, among others, touchable for teenagers who are struggling to maintain even a 90 average. Proof of Heaven is a staggering novel, a result of the way the author fills you with a sense of wonder when you finish the book, how she entwines you into the character’s struggles and successes, and keeps you entranced all the way to the end.

Proof of Heaven is an inspiring novel, because of the way the author fills you with a sense of wonder. Throughout the book, you are struck time and again emotionally by the fervor in which the characters search for their hearts desire. A non-existent cure for a undiagnosed disease, heaven, love, and even just a new purpose in life. At various moments throughout the story, one character or another will find what they were looking for, all but a doting mother, Cathleen, and a dying son, Colm (coh-lum). "'You have to believe. To hope. To know that there is always a chance, a way to fix you. … You’re my miracle Colm'" (291). A lot of the time, we tend to believe that there are no such things as miracles. Though this book is fiction, and very much so, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe miracles do exist. On a quest to find the father he never knew, Colm finds that his father never wanted to know him. While collapsing on the beach, yet again, Colm hears his uncle, mother and doctor calling out to him through his daze. Colm “dies” continuously throughout the book, always rising again after his heart beat flat-lines. Cathleen, Colm’s mother, has spent her life trying to find a miracle for her son, taking him to a holy city in Italy, paying to see countless doctors, and it becomes evident in this segment of how three dimensional these characters are. You become inspired by the character’s journey, and at the end of the book, you become filled with a sense of wonder and hope.

Another reason why Proof of Heaven is a thrilling novel is because of how you become entwined in the character’s personal stories; you can’t help but care about them. Proof of Heaven’s story line is composed of a tangled web of journeys that come together at the end of the book. The most prominent story you follow in this book is that of a desperate mother. From the first time that her son Colm died, Cathleen’s purpose in life became nothing else but to save her son. She had lost her father, mother and husband, and she didn’t want to lose Colm as well. Cathleen does everything for her son, becoming so desperate as to force her son to believe in a God he just doesn’t see. Her relentless, even smothering attempts to make him believe drive him away from his home and those who love him. "'She’s given up her whole god-damn life for you … she’s been praying to god to save you … she spent her whole life trying to protect you – trying to protect that sorry-ass father of yours. Trying to protect you from the sad, horrible truth'"(224). Colm’s uncle Sean explodes at Colm, trying to make him see that he doesn’t need his father, that he has everything – and that above all, he has broken his mother’s heart. “He held him because he knew better than anyone what is was like to grow up wondering about the father … he thought about how much harder it was for Colm, because his father chose to leave him, while his own was taken, consumed by fire "(266). Another thing you notice about the characters is how Hackett uses them to strengthen each other. You become awestruck by how seamlessly the characters interact, as though you were in their shoes, or even just in the story with them, following their every move, every thought. You feel their emotions, their fears, and you start to feel compassion or even hatred occasionally for the characters as well.

The last reason why Proof of Heaven is such an intriguing novel is because how you are entranced from the first page all the way to the last. "Colm Francis Magee had died seven times before his seventh birthday"(1). From the first page, you are captivated by Hackett’s writing style. She sets up the story in a short strange sentence that makes you question what the book will be about. Personally, I’ve never read a book that starts in this way, with such a bold sentence, and from the moment I read that sentence, I couldn’t put the book down. Hackett “stuns” you with an unordinary sentence that grabs you into the story, and won’t spit you out until you turn the last page. "Gaspar came running and before she knew it, he was standing next to her, staring, as she was at Colm’s empty bed"(162). Hackett ends chapter 19 with this sentence. While you know that Colm is missing, hence the empty bed, you don’t know where he’s gone. He might be eating a snack, or actually gone. Hackett ends many of her chapters with a cliffhanger, others simply just with a sense of closure. Either way she ends the chapters, you just cannot put the book down, because the book is so touching, and the story line never drags.

When I showed my friends this book, they saw the word “heaven”, and looked at me and went: “uh…. Interesting…” Contrary to what your first impressions may be, I can tell you that if you are turning away form this book because of the word “heaven”, you might want to reconsider. This book is not only about a search for heaven, or an afterlife, it’s about searching for meaning, and hope, and it’s amazing because of how well the characters are described, and how as a result, you feel compassion for them, and you just can’t turn away. It’s also stunning because of how you finish the book, not with a new view on religion, but instead on what life is about, and what it means to live. The main character Colm, dies unexpectedly several times, but rises every time. No one expects to die, but for him, it’s a fact of his everyday life. It’s captivating because of how Hackett draws you in and holds you there. Proof of Heaven is indeed, the teensiest bit depressing, but also hopeful. Depressing in the sense where you begin to develop an aching pain for Colm, as he tries to prove to himself that he will go to heaven after he dies, something that we often try to convince ourselves. I’d say that this book if for anyone who doesn’t mind a sappy novel here and then, but wants a realistic one for a change. This book is easy to relate to, because it centers on ideas and questions that almost every person faced at one point in their life, whether they were young or old.
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message 1: by Marcus (new)

Marcus  Harper Wow, what a fabulous review. I love how you comment on the both the issues in the book and on the writing style!


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