To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story Info

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New York Times bestseller
A kayak
accident during a South American adventure takes one woman to
heaven—where she experienced God’s peace, joy, and
angels—and back to life again.

 
In 1999 in the
Los Rios region of southern Chile, orthopedic surgeon, devoted wife, and
loving mother Dr. Mary Neal drowned in a kayak accident. While
cascading down a waterfall, her kayak became pinned at the bottom and
she was immediately and completely submerged. Despite the rescue efforts
of her companions, Mary was underwater for too long, and as a result,
died.
 
To Heaven and Back is Mary’s
remarkable story of her life’s spiritual journey and what happened
as she moved from life to death to eternal life, and back again.
Detailing her feelings and surroundings in heaven, her communication
with angels, and her deep sense of sadness when she realized it
wasn’t her time, Mary shares the captivating experience of her
modern-day miracle.
 
Mary’s life has been forever
changed by her newfound understanding of her purpose on earth, her
awareness of God, her closer relationship with Jesus, and her personal
spiritual journey suddenly enhanced by a first-hand experience in
heaven. To Heaven and Back will reacquaint you with the hope,
wonder, and promise of heaven, while enriching you own faith and walk
with God.

Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for To Heaven and Back: A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story:

4

Feb 20, 2013

One of the things I liked most about this book was that it's clear that Dr. Neal isn't a writer, and I don't mean that in an offensive way at all. Her prose is very simple, with little (if any) embellishments, flowery language, or complex syntax. And the reason why I like that for this text is because it adds authenticity to her story. She's not a charismatic, artistic type trying to sell a story or argue her own point of view... she is very much just a medical professional who has led a life One of the things I liked most about this book was that it's clear that Dr. Neal isn't a writer, and I don't mean that in an offensive way at all. Her prose is very simple, with little (if any) embellishments, flowery language, or complex syntax. And the reason why I like that for this text is because it adds authenticity to her story. She's not a charismatic, artistic type trying to sell a story or argue her own point of view... she is very much just a medical professional who has led a life that's been repeatedly touched by God's amazing power, and who feels that she has an obligation to share those stories with the world.

I wasn't reading her story through the lens of someone trying to "sell" an ideology to me or someone who was trying to make the story more sensational (though that would be hard to do!). Dr. Neal's book is an honest, straightforward account of how God changed her life, and it's clear from reading it that she's only interested in telling the story; she doesn't need to gain anything from it.

Moving away from that point, Dr. Neal's life story in and of itself is a MAGNIFICENT display of God's incredible power and love! Time and time again He not only lead her life, but brought her through trials that would have destroyed many other people who would have tried to get through them on their own. I was very much inspired when reading this, and I honestly teared up more than a few times throughout the text. In a time when so many people try to downplay the existence of God and His power, it's so heartwarming and encouraging to read this very frank account from a very scientific person who was raised and trained into the very culture of questioning and skepticism that many use as a weapon against the faith.

Dr. Neal's story is incredible, and I recommend this book to anyone who needs a reminder of just how fantastic God's love for us is, and how real is His ability to intervene in our lives when we need it or ask for it. It reads very quickly (I finished it in just one night!), so this is a great book even for those of you who are pressed for time during the week. ...more
1

Jun 11, 2012

To Heaven and Back is "a doctor's extraordinary account of her death, Heaven, angels and life again" and is supposedly true is all aspects.

Allow me to preface this review by stating that this opinion is coming from a born-again, fundamental, Bible-believing Christian. As such, I found this book very disturbing and feel that the best place for it is in the garbage can. I know that sounds harsh, but I feel this book contains several elements that could prove to be extremely hazardous to Christians To Heaven and Back is "a doctor's extraordinary account of her death, Heaven, angels and life again" and is supposedly true is all aspects.

Allow me to preface this review by stating that this opinion is coming from a born-again, fundamental, Bible-believing Christian. As such, I found this book very disturbing and feel that the best place for it is in the garbage can. I know that sounds harsh, but I feel this book contains several elements that could prove to be extremely hazardous to Christians and non-Christians alike. Allow me to state a few examples:

1. Ms. Neal gives readers the idea that a Christian following God's direction will not encounter troubles. In her words, "when you are doing God's will, everything seems to happen without much effort or many obstacles". Say what? Read the Bible, and you'll discover the exact opposite is true. David was a man after God's own heart, and he faced obstacles. Job was a good man and full of integrity, yet he lost everything he held dear. Paul was the greatest missionary to have ever lived, yet he was imprisoned countless times, stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, and the list goes on. Satan knows how to put obstacles in our path too. He doesn't want us serving the Lord. I fear after reading this, there will be Christians doubting their life's direction because they've run into an obstacle or two. My dear Christian, if this is the case, please know that those obstacles are a pretty good sign that you are on the right track.

2. Ms. Neal claims to have experienced salvation during her baptism. Salvation occurs when you accept Jesus Christ as Lord over your life. It has nothing to do with baptism except that baptism is an outward show of an inward change.

3. Ms. Neal admits that she felt God was a "Sunday thing" and spent the majority of her early life ignoring Him. Yet every time she found herself in a difficult situation, she "remembered" to pray and God jumped in to meet her need exactly as she saw fit. Again, I fear we have Christians reading this and wondering why God doesn't work that way for them. God doesn't work that way for anyone! God is not a genie in a lamp. He is not at our beck and call. We either have a relationship with Him or not. We can't ignore Him and then expect Him to jump every time we call.

4. Ms. Neal uses quite an imagination in describing how children actually abide in Heaven before being sent to earth and that they remember Heaven when they're young. So if that's the case, child-like faith isn't faith at all. It's just memories. Additionally, she tells of communicating with angels and of others who communicated with their dead loved ones. Okay, if you say so.

5. Beyond that, there were events that were described that were beyond miraculous; they were downright fictional. Please don't misunderstand me. I believe in miracles, and I believe God can do the impossible and unfathomable. However, for one person to have experienced so many HUGELY miraculous events is just very hard to believe.

6. Last, but certainly not least, Jesus was hardly mentioned at all in the book. Yes, this woman went to Heaven, but yet angels and light and gardens get more mention than Jesus. And the few times she did mention Jesus, His name was used interchangeably with "the angel". Jesus is not an angel. He is the Son of God. Surely, a book about heaven should have more focus on Jesus and less on self, right?

I hope that you understand why I'm so emphatic about my opinions on this book. It is "feel good" fiction like this that is leading hordes of people away from true salvation and a true knowledge of Christ. And as a Christian, I feel it is my responsibility to warn others of the dangers I see lurking in these areas. I do so with love, for I want to do as God commanded and speak the truth in love, seasoned with grace. And so, my friends, consider yourself warned!


I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah for the purpose of this review. Obviously, I was not required to write a positive recommendation of this book. ...more
3

Jul 19, 2012

Being a health care professional who has watched many codes and many people die, I was interested in reading about the spiritual aspect of what I physically saw. Basically, it is very easy to tell when the spirit leaves the body, but during the process of dying/coding it is all very clinical. This book was interesting and enlightening. It approached the aspect of death from a different angle, the experience from a person who experienced tragedy and her struggle with life and death. It is Being a health care professional who has watched many codes and many people die, I was interested in reading about the spiritual aspect of what I physically saw. Basically, it is very easy to tell when the spirit leaves the body, but during the process of dying/coding it is all very clinical. This book was interesting and enlightening. It approached the aspect of death from a different angle, the experience from a person who experienced tragedy and her struggle with life and death. It is inspiring for those facing or fearing death. I did wish it was a little more philosophical and deep, I found the message to be very simple. But I guess a simple message is easy to understand for people from different backgrounds. ...more
5

Jun 25, 2012

Life is spiritial journey and second chances are real with God.


After having worked in the medical field for many years and seeing death first hand I was immediately interested in reading this title written by a real life medical surgeon who had a real near death experience. Throughout my lifetime I have read many real life NDE's of those who either through traumatic injuries or illness passed away only to later be revived and describe in as much detail as possible what they have seen. This Life is spiritial journey and second chances are real with God.


After having worked in the medical field for many years and seeing death first hand I was immediately interested in reading this title written by a real life medical surgeon who had a real near death experience. Throughout my lifetime I have read many real life NDE's of those who either through traumatic injuries or illness passed away only to later be revived and describe in as much detail as possible what they have seen. This however is the first I have read a NDE coming from a medical surgeon.

As most stories of this nature what happened to Mary C. Neal in To Heaven and Back is a unique experience. Mary not only drowned, she was dead for over 15 minutes before coming back to life. Although short in nature Mary then describes her spiritual journey. Mary was given much insight into her life and that of her family. I truly believe Mary's story is sincere and she experienced what she did as she described many common events that are unique to someone who has experienced an NDE.

While I do not believe Mary described being in the presence of Jesus I do belief she was amongst spiritual beings and enlightening insight was given to her. I have already come across many NDE's who described being told that to a point we humans are given a choice as to who we are to be in this life beforehand. But also that once we are born those memories are removed from our consciousness. Although this is not recognized by Christians or cannot be found anywhere in the Bible does not mean it to be untrue. Many call this new age beliefs. How can it be a new age belief if it has been told to these people when experiencing an NDE. These people have not made this up on their own.

When one thinks about NDE experiences. Would one believe a real life NDE experience from a bible thumping religious fanatic. I know I myself would feel they maybe had delusions due to their extremes in religion? Many NDE stories I have come across have been from normal everyday people, not religious fanatics. Yet I have also come across NDE's from religious clergy that have gone to Hell and back. Why because life is about growing spiritually with God and how one treats others while here on this planet not about how many times one prays the rosary or attends church service. Yet even with these messages God sends back people are still blinded by religion which was created by man.

The reviews for this book will come down to those who have an open mind and believe Mary's NDE and those who will not. I feel Mary was given a second chance to life not only because she has much work yet to do. But also because through this story Mary can help many who may be feeling they are out of time to make a connection with God. Maybe they ignored God all their life and now are dying from a terminal illness or just old age. It is a message from God that he gives us all a second chance to be by his side, if not before than after death. God will not turn anyone away who is sincere about coming to him whether in life or after death. Death can be a really scary thing for those who have never given a second thought to God. There are many lost souls that can find comfort in Mary's story. A true story from someone who is not a bible thumbing fanatic and one has to be blind not to see that God purposely planned it this way. ...more
4

May 30, 2012

I love reading about Near Death Experiences. I've read quite a few different accounts and love to see their similarities and differences.

I was surprised by how small of a role the author's actual near death experience played in this book. It is much more of an autobiographical - life lessons learned kind of a book. However at the time I was reading this book those life lessons were exactly what I was needing to hear so this book really rang true to me. At the time my own son was struggling and I love reading about Near Death Experiences. I've read quite a few different accounts and love to see their similarities and differences.

I was surprised by how small of a role the author's actual near death experience played in this book. It is much more of an autobiographical - life lessons learned kind of a book. However at the time I was reading this book those life lessons were exactly what I was needing to hear so this book really rang true to me. At the time my own son was struggling and we were just day away from taking my son to the hospital where he would end up spending 5 weeks. If I read this again today I'm not sure how I would react to it but at the time I read it I felt like it was one of those books that I picked up for a reason because I needed what it gave me. ...more
3

Aug 11, 2012

As an RN, I was looking for a clinical explanation of what happened when she "died" and came back. What injuries she sustained? How her brain could have survived the oxygen deprivation? What brain injury would have been usual for that type of exposure? Who better to deliver that level of detail than an orthopedic surgeon? What I got was the usual "bright light and glowing nebulous beings" that fill most near death experience descriptions. There was vague timing and inattention to detail. For As an RN, I was looking for a clinical explanation of what happened when she "died" and came back. What injuries she sustained? How her brain could have survived the oxygen deprivation? What brain injury would have been usual for that type of exposure? Who better to deliver that level of detail than an orthopedic surgeon? What I got was the usual "bright light and glowing nebulous beings" that fill most near death experience descriptions. There was vague timing and inattention to detail. For example, at one point she referred to an angel who spoke to her but in the same paragraph called him Jesus. The thing that really bothered me was her report that she "died" and then traveled from Chile via charter plane, commercial airline (lying to the flight attendants) and rental car back to Wyoming prior to seeking treatment for her injuries. That was just crazy and foolish. I guess my disappointment is that it is not what I thought it was. It was an interesting story with reassuring details of the after-life but convincing it is not. It did not strike me as much different from other stories about people who believe they have gone to heaven and returned. ...more
4

Jan 12, 2013

This is not a review, just bits I would like to remember later. However, it must be noted that I read this book in one sitting. All 220 pages of it. I have never done that before.

"Of note is that most theologians would agree that angels live among us according to God's will, not our own. Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote in Systematic Theology (Kregel, 1993), 'One reason angels are rendered invisible to human sight may be that if they were seen, they would be worshiped. Man, who is prone to idolatry as This is not a review, just bits I would like to remember later. However, it must be noted that I read this book in one sitting. All 220 pages of it. I have never done that before.

"Of note is that most theologians would agree that angels live among us according to God's will, not our own. Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote in Systematic Theology (Kregel, 1993), 'One reason angels are rendered invisible to human sight may be that if they were seen, they would be worshiped. Man, who is prone to idolatry as to worship the works of his own hands, would hardly be able to resist the worship of angels were they before his eyes.'"

"Even the most terrible circumstances and events can stimulate great change in individuals and/or societies. Without observing cruelty, we would not be moved to compassion. Without personal trials, we would not develop patience or faithfulness. It is the recognition that our earthly concerns matter little when compared to life eternal that allows us to know joy in the midst of sorry and worry. Have you ever really changed or experienced personal growth during times of comfort and complacency?"

*Psalm 61:1-2
*Jeremiah 29:11
*Psalm 23:4
*Romans 8:38-39
*Matthew 18:19-20, 28:20
*Philippians 4:6
*Psalm 91:15
*1 Thessalonians 5:17-18


There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. -MLK Jr ...more
5

Jun 14, 2012

I think that Mary Neal’s book is important for people to read. Her incredible experience gives us hope regarding the purpose of our lives and the meaning of our deaths. She is a most admirable person and her book will be of interest and help to people who are interested in NDE’s, what happens to us when we die, and how we should try to live our lives in preparation for this. For these reasons, this book is invaluable.

There were a couple of things in Mary Neal’s books that bothered me from a I think that Mary Neal’s book is important for people to read. Her incredible experience gives us hope regarding the purpose of our lives and the meaning of our deaths. She is a most admirable person and her book will be of interest and help to people who are interested in NDE’s, what happens to us when we die, and how we should try to live our lives in preparation for this. For these reasons, this book is invaluable.

There were a couple of things in Mary Neal’s books that bothered me from a psychological point of view though, and I will list them:

1. Her willingness to leave her children including a 1 ½ year old and go to Costa Rica and engage in a dangerous activity like intense white water kayaking that included 10-20 foot waterfalls in a isolated jungle area.
2. She & her husband choosing not to go to a hospital in Costa Rica to get stabilized before medical evacuation to the USA after her kayaking accident. Their decision instead to check into a hotel for the first night and then to take commercial flights back to the US and then their decision not to go to a hospital in Salt Lake where they initially landed and to drive the six hour trip over the high altitude mountains into Jackson Hole. This was also very risky behavior that again nearly resulted in her death from Acute Respiratory Distress and Pneumonia.
3. The subsequent repetition of risky behavior by “catching air” while off trail skiing with her son and breaking her ankle again placing herself at risk trying to hike back through the snow, over mountains with a broken ankle.
4. The description of herself as a fifteen-year-old performing cesarean sections, and the missionaries she was with performing appendectomies in Mexico with no training, experience, and presumably no anesthesia or sterile fields. This was probably quite illegal and again very risky. It was also inexplicable. Why, what, was going on here?
5. Her not taking her son to a therapist for evaluation when her told her as a young child that he would not live past eighteen because this was “not the plan,” and again years later when he asked her to take out life insurance for him and wanted her to tell him how to write a will prior to his final trip where he died. I am deeply sorry for her and her family’s tragic loss. I just didn’t understand, was very confused about, what was going on in this boy’s mind, and I would have wanted an objective evaluation, a second opinion as it were. How would this have not been helpful?
These psychological concerns do not take away from the value of Mary Neal’s book, the validity of her incredible experience, the strength and courage she has shown in adversity, and the help she continues to provide to her patients and everyone who reads her book. It also sparked curiosity in me to read more on the subject including Sam Parnia's excellent book, "What Happens When We die."
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4

Jan 24, 2015

3.5 Stars

Confession: I have a serious fascination with books, movies and 20/20's,Datelines or 60 Minutes about heaven and out of body experiences. I find myself gravitating to these books every 2-10 years. I continue to be stunned by the similarities in what people experience and am curious and a little in awe of these very personal supernatural accountings.

I really liked the straightforward narrative and very believable experience that this author penned. I especially appreciated that she did 3.5 Stars

Confession: I have a serious fascination with books, movies and 20/20's,Datelines or 60 Minutes about heaven and out of body experiences. I find myself gravitating to these books every 2-10 years. I continue to be stunned by the similarities in what people experience and am curious and a little in awe of these very personal supernatural accountings.

I really liked the straightforward narrative and very believable experience that this author penned. I especially appreciated that she did not claim to have all the answers about heaven and felt very comfortable saying something to the effect that she had not stayed for a long visit and just because she did not see pets for example did not mean that they were not somewhere else. I also enjoyed learning about her life before and after her time in heaven and appreciated the way she tried to live her life in accordance with God's plan for her. She is a down to earth mom of 4 and an orthopedic surgeon which made her experience more credible and relatable for me. The hardest thing for me in this book was the evangelical language and tone. My Mormon ears just do not relate as well, try as I may. I know this is just because this spiritual language is not as familiar. I did enjoy the short interaction she had with the LDS wife of one of her patients.

The shinning moments of this book were being able to hear about God's love for all his children and seeing miracle after miracle play out. I also liked the author's challenge for us to find miracles all around us, to rejoice, and to be grateful for every day. Also, truth be told every once in awhile I love to hear first hand accounts that Heaven is real, that it is beautiful beyond description and that our loves one are advocating for us here and beyond. What a lovely notion.

I find it interesting that when books like this come out that many reviewers, authors and other religious folks get so upset about what these people experienced. To me if their accounts don't follow exactly what one believes doesn't mean that their experience wasn't genuine for them. It also doesn't mean that I have to wholeheartedly agree with everything they say. I am just happy that I get a front row seat for an experience that was very personal and spiritual, and I am grateful that they have the courage to share despite the harsh criticism from believers and non believers. I'm surprised at how many full books are written just to dispute the heaven story books.

If you stuck around for this whole review here are some favorite heaven movies:
Field of Dreams
Defending Your Life
City of Angels
Ghost
Heaven Can Wait
Made in Heaven (Is my family the only one that watched this multiple times?)
and of course It's a Wonderful Life



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2

Dec 19, 2015

I've read a dozen or so books about near death experiences and I've found that I prefer the books that focus on the details of the event rather than trying to convert everyone who opens up the book. People can believe whatever they want and write books about it too. It's just not very fun to read in my opinion.

Some bits that stuck with me from this book:

"I believe that when people with near-death experiences describe "seeing the white light" or "moving toward the white light," they may be I've read a dozen or so books about near death experiences and I've found that I prefer the books that focus on the details of the event rather than trying to convert everyone who opens up the book. People can believe whatever they want and write books about it too. It's just not very fun to read in my opinion.

Some bits that stuck with me from this book:

"I believe that when people with near-death experiences describe "seeing the white light" or "moving toward the white light," they may be describing their moving toward the brilliance of this hall. Our vocabulary is just not right enough to describe the experience in a way that is understandable." pg 73 Eben Alexander discusses this phenomena too.

Metaphor about life: "The complete tapestry (of life) is far too large for us to see and too complex a pattern for us to appreciate the importance of our single thread. Regardless, without our individual contribution, the tapestry would be incomplete and broken We should, therefore, recognize and take joy in our contribution. Indeed, our threads- our lives- are important; what we do and the choices we make, even the seemingly small ones, actually make a difference."pg 102 I agree with that.

If you liked To Heaven and Back, you may want to read Embraced By The Light by Betty J. Eadie or Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo. Both of those books are non-fictional accounts of near death experiences with the same religious zeal of this one. Try Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing by Anita Moorjani or Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander for a more spiritual rather than religious spin on the experiences. ...more
5

Sep 24, 2012

To Heaven and Back is the story of one woman’s life of providential living.

To Heaven and Back tells the story of Dr. Mary Neal, an orthopedic surgeon, who drowned in a kayaking accident in the Chilean Andes, went to heaven and was revived by the efforts of her companions. But it isn’t just another I-died-and-went-to-heaven-then-came-back book, although it certainly does tell the story of a woman who did exactly that. Dr. Neal tells that story with clarity and in detail. But what sets the book To Heaven and Back is the story of one woman’s life of providential living.

To Heaven and Back tells the story of Dr. Mary Neal, an orthopedic surgeon, who drowned in a kayaking accident in the Chilean Andes, went to heaven and was revived by the efforts of her companions. But it isn’t just another I-died-and-went-to-heaven-then-came-back book, although it certainly does tell the story of a woman who did exactly that. Dr. Neal tells that story with clarity and in detail. But what sets the book apart is Dr. Neal’s life in Christ. That’s what inspired me.

It is the story of God’s interaction with Dr. Neal throughout the course of her life. Dr. Neal has the charism of discerning Divine Providence in the events of her life and the grace of accepting this Providence for what it is when she encounters it. She is unembarrassed to share these experiences in an age when people who admit they see God at work in their lives are often the butt of jokes.

To Heaven and Back is an easy read, dealing with one woman’s life in Christ. It deals with life, love, grief, death and authentic living in an honest and unembarrassed Christian manner. These topics are at the core of the human experience, while most of the things we consider more important are far out on the periphery.

I think one reason why books that relate honest human experience in these areas often seem simple is that they are simple, but not in the sense that they are simplistic or shallow. They are simple in the way that elegance is simple; because it is true.

I’m glad I read To Heaven and Back. It gave me a lot to think about in terms of my own walk with God. I recommend it.

(Read this book on the plane to the Mid-West in three hours. Easy to read, could not put it down.) ...more
3

Feb 08, 2013

Gosh, I just don't know about this one. Certainly her survival and recovery is a miracle, but some of this book is just so "out there". An angel in the form of an owl sent to stare at her in order to convey a message (chapter 21)?? Not particularly well written, either. I'd give it 2.5 stars, but I rounded up.
5

February 17, 2013

A great book that will make you take a hard look at your own spiritual relationship with Christ and his work in your own life,
5

Feb 24, 2013

February 24, 2013 – Sunday. COINCIDENCE OR DESIGN? We all experience events in our lives that startle us from time to time. These occasions make us stop and ask our selves if what just happened to us was a coincidence or part of a greater, grand design or plan. Good fortune and luck falls into this category. I consider myself a very fortunate person. Years ago a political critic and opponent of mine accused me of living a ‘charmed life’, something I took as a back-handed compliment. Its true. I February 24, 2013 – Sunday. COINCIDENCE OR DESIGN? We all experience events in our lives that startle us from time to time. These occasions make us stop and ask our selves if what just happened to us was a coincidence or part of a greater, grand design or plan. Good fortune and luck falls into this category. I consider myself a very fortunate person. Years ago a political critic and opponent of mine accused me of living a ‘charmed life’, something I took as a back-handed compliment. Its true. I have been the direct recipient of many blessings that have come my way that I neither felt worthy of receiving nor could explain how my own actions had brought about such good fortune. I have also suffered loss, pain, and sorrow in my life, though much less frequently than the good that has come my way. Why good things happen and bad things happen to us is one of the great mysteries of life. Who of has hasn’t asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

The book “To Heaven and Back” by Dr. Mary Neal, answers the question of coincidence and design. Her story, both sad and happy, relates her own near death experience and its impact on her life, followed years later by the dramatic loss of her 19 year old son and other trials and challenges that brought her to an understanding of God and His purposes for us here on this earth. The great and terrible question “what happens to us when we die” is answered in her book. A skeptic both by nature and by training, Dr. Neal reveals the need that we all have to defer to the wisdom and love of a higher power, one that loves us, one that has a plan for each of us who lives here on this earth.

SPIRITUAL VS. RELIGIOUS. One of the takeaways for me in this book is the difference between a religious life and a spiritual life. One can be observant and religious without necessarily being spiritual and vise versa. Dr. Neal says that both spirituality and religion are important and both should have a place in our lives. But ultimately we need to understand who God is, how much he cares for us individually, as well as collectively, and that worshiping Him is a vital and necessary daily activity for us in our lives.

KEEP A JOURNAL. Dr. Neal challenges her readers to keep a journal for six to twelve months to keep track of the coincidences that happen in their lives. Perspective helps us understand the how our lives are part of a design rather than a series of unrelated events. In the journal she suggests that we write the details of the coincidences that happen to us over a period of time. In one column we should write the details of each major event that has taken place in our lives, such as acceptance into college, marriage, finding a job, choosing where to live and so on. Note every time that the arrangements fall easily into place. Similarly every time you struggle with a situation write down the outcome. Write the bad things that happen to you and to others and in an adjacent column list what happens as an indirect result of these bad things and the lessons that were learned. At the end of the exercise she believes that we will see patterns that are not statistically explainable. In other words, the events will be linked and have an element of design giving assurance that God has a plan for us in our lives. We will begin to recognize coincidences for the miracles that they really are, and that God is with us even in times of loneliness, misfortune and sorrow.

CONCLUSION. “Lets not let life muddle what really happens…we are all part of a great miracle” so quoted Mary in the final pages of her book. She also quotes Martin Luther who said “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase”. For each of us it is important to move forward with our goals and work to align those goals with a greater purpose in life. We must set those goals carefully and prayerfully deferring always to a higher source that may take us by another path to the place He wants us to be. By having this kind of faith, and believing that what you do really matters, helps you Get Where You’re Goaling.
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1

Apr 25, 2013

To be sure, the author,orthopaedic surgeon Mary C. Neal, MD, encountered some seriously traumatic experiences, once in 1999 when she nearly died in a kayaking incident and again ten years later when she lost her son in a senseless automobile accident. This woman has had a lot with which to process and cope. On a personal level, my heart goes out to her and wish her love and support.

This book, however, is a different matter.

I found it to be a 220 pages of exasperating religious witnessing that To be sure, the author, orthopaedic surgeon Mary C. Neal, MD, encountered some seriously traumatic experiences, once in 1999 when she nearly died in a kayaking incident and again ten years later when she lost her son in a senseless automobile accident. This woman has had a lot with which to process and cope. On a personal level, my heart goes out to her and wish her love and support.

This book, however, is a different matter.

I found it to be a 220 pages of exasperating religious witnessing that took a long time to read because I couldn't get my eyes to stop rolling. 

Neal believes she died, went to heaven, and walked with angels. However, it wasn't her time because she had more work to do (I guess clerical errors are not unheard of in Heaven), so she was resurrected. In recovery, while her vision was failing, she was visited twice by an angel (or Jesus or God, she's not really sure, and why would you even ask?) who revealed to her the mysteries of the universe. 

The most interesting highlight from the truths revealed to Neal by God's agent: Before we're born, God gives us our life's mission. We get to review it with our "planning angel" (her words). We apparently have what she calls "branch points," during which we can literally retire (die), or get a new job. (Any similarity these divine plans have to contemporary professional career tracks an MD might be familiar with are purely coincidental.) She also tells us that children can remember heaven from before they were born. The younger they are, the better they remember, so the next time you see a two-year-old, be sure to ask!

Of course, this may sound a little farfetched to some secular disbelievers (whom Neal recounts having made a habit of avoiding throughout her life); but the reader should take the author's word that what she experienced is true. Not that she ever refutes or even acknowledges the existence of any other prevailing neurological causes of an experience like hers; but because she lets us know from the get-go that as a doctor and woman of science, she's a "skeptic" who "understands numbers and statistics," which should presumably put any questions of her objectivity to rest. She repeats this characterization several times in the book, including once when the assertion follows a chapter in which she claims an owl perched outside her breakfast nook, urging her to visit her ailing step-father just before he passed away. (Although to be fair, she later realized it was an angel just disguised as an owl; and who among us hasn't fallen for that old trick?)

Neal is quite up-front about being a lifelong churchgoer, Bible literalist, who has repeatedly searched for ways to make God more central in her life, and believes that what people call "coincidence" is actually God's intervention (either directly or via angels, it's not entirely clear). Despite this religiosity, she wants us to know that she wouldn't characterize herself as being "deeply religious or spiritual" before her death and subsequent resurrection.

While I found the book to be mostly harmless, there were a few instances in which I found the author's perspective a bit oblivious. The most shocking example is that even though she is intimately aware of the brutally horrific genocide in Rwanda from Tutsi priest Father Ubald (Chapter 32), she really isn't convinced of the notion that "bad things actually happen to good people" (Chapter 17). I hope to God she hasn't shared this viewpoint in the presence of people affected by tragedy on that level.

Although most of the chapters start with an obligatory Bible passage, chapter four is kicked off with a quote from Emerson: "People only see what they are prepared to see." I can only presume the irony is lost on the author. ...more
3

May 27, 2012

Interesting book. I already believe that heaven is a real place. I already believe in God. I believe the Bible is true. Since I AM a believer, I didn't need convincing. I don't know that this book would convince someone who WASN'T a believer to become one.

I almost totally accept her "Logical Conclusions" at the end of the book---Heaven is a real place, nothing can separate me from God's love, I have work to do, God will see me through. I would modify the one that said "God's promises are true." Interesting book. I already believe that heaven is a real place. I already believe in God. I believe the Bible is true. Since I AM a believer, I didn't need convincing. I don't know that this book would convince someone who WASN'T a believer to become one.

I almost totally accept her "Logical Conclusions" at the end of the book---Heaven is a real place, nothing can separate me from God's love, I have work to do, God will see me through. I would modify the one that said "God's promises are true." to God's WORD is true. Several portions of her story correlated to what my father said when he was at the end of his life. He saw angels in the room with us. He felt that just out of his earthly sight, there was a group cheering him on---he referred to them as a cloud of witnesses. He said he could almost hear them, but it was muffled like the sound was coming through a wall, but he KNEW that they were waiting for him and encouraging him.

What I didn't agree with were 3 points in her book:
1. prior to coming to this life, we outline our lives and the plan is to develop the fruits of the Spirit or help others to do so.
2. children remember the time before they came to this life.
3. After death people are given a final opportunity to accept the love of God or to reject it.
I don't believe these ideas are scriptural. I believe that God knits us in our mother's womb. I believe that we have freewill and make choices in life that have real consequences--good and bad. I would LIKE to believe that after death we could choose Jesus then, but I don't believe that is the way it will work. I was also disappointed with the lack of focus on Jesus. The Bible is very clear that HE is the only way to the Father. I absolutely DO believe that this woman had a death experience. I believe that she met with spirits after her drowning. I believe that God DOES have a plan for her life. I also believe that if we all took the focus off of ourselves and onto living the lives that God wanted us to live, the world would look very different. ...more
3

Jan 30, 2013

This is a fascinating little book, a quick read, about the life experiences of a woman who had a near death experience. But it is not so much about her brief journey to heaven and back as about her experiences with miracles and angels in her life.

“Although we are rarely aware of angels or their intervention in our world, I believe there are angels all around us every day of our lives... They are the ones orchestrating the 'coincidences' that occur so commonly in our lives. Of note is that most This is a fascinating little book, a quick read, about the life experiences of a woman who had a near death experience. But it is not so much about her brief journey to heaven and back as about her experiences with miracles and angels in her life.

“Although we are rarely aware of angels or their intervention in our world, I believe there are angels all around us every day of our lives... They are the ones orchestrating the 'coincidences' that occur so commonly in our lives. Of note is that most theologians would agree that angels live among us according to God's will. Not our own.”

“Each of us is like a small piece of thread that contributes to the weaving of a very large and very beautiful tapestry. We, as single threads, spend our lives worrying about our thread – what color it is and how long it is – even becoming upset if it becomes torn or frayed. The complete tapestry is far too large for us to see and too complex a pattern for us to appreciate the importance of our single thread. Regardless, without our individual contribution, the tapestry would be incomplete and broken. We should, therefore, recognize and take joy in our contribution. Indeed, our threads – our lives – are important; what we do and the choices we make, even the seemingly small ones, actually make a difference.”

“People ask why so many miracles occurred in ancient days but not in our present time, I contend that there are just as many miracles occurring today, in the lives of ordinary people. But I also assert that most of us don't look for miracles, don't recognize them for what they are, and don't really believe them to be of divine origin even if their miraculous nature is noticed. My life's experiences would argue against the concepts of coincidence and luck. It would support the belief that there is only guiding presence and plan of God, who uses His assortment of angels and messengers to lead us and communicate with us.”

...more
1

Sep 11, 2012

This is one of those books that someone gave to me and told me I "just had" to read it. The genre of book (someone dies, goes to heaven and then comes back to life) is not something I would normally read. But, out of respect to the one who gave it to me, I read it. You could read my review on the other book from this genre which I read, because my feelings are much the same. The author of this book is credible, being an adult, a medical doctor and a parent, but the reflections on heaven are the This is one of those books that someone gave to me and told me I "just had" to read it. The genre of book (someone dies, goes to heaven and then comes back to life) is not something I would normally read. But, out of respect to the one who gave it to me, I read it. You could read my review on the other book from this genre which I read, because my feelings are much the same. The author of this book is credible, being an adult, a medical doctor and a parent, but the reflections on heaven are the same. Her book goes beyond just a heavenly vision, however. She see angels, then sees an angel in an owl that visits her house. She imagines that the dead are helping trees blossom and reassuring her through a variety of natural means. Her theology is a bit off too, for instance, she talks about the preexistence of souls that are sent to inhabit babies, who are in touch with the spiritual, angelic world, but then grow up and forget all the wonder of that place. I could say more, but take it from me, you don't want to read this book!! ...more
4

May 21, 2012

Reading this book was like listening to a terribly dull acquaintance with something fascinating to say. I was intrigued by her story and inspired by its message but it was so pedestrianly written and took so long to get to the events themselves, then when it did she did not tell you enough about them, and lacked the powers of description to bring them to life with the luminosity she obvioulsy felt. I am probably being unfair to her as she is an MD not a writer, and i suppose the matter of fact Reading this book was like listening to a terribly dull acquaintance with something fascinating to say. I was intrigued by her story and inspired by its message but it was so pedestrianly written and took so long to get to the events themselves, then when it did she did not tell you enough about them, and lacked the powers of description to bring them to life with the luminosity she obvioulsy felt. I am probably being unfair to her as she is an MD not a writer, and i suppose the matter of fact way in which it is written adds credence to her testimony.
I have certainly taken something away from this book which will stay with me, and for that i thank her for writing it down. ...more
4

March 18, 2015

A kayak accident during a South American adventure takes one woman to heaven where she experienced God's peace, joy, and angels and back to life again. In 1999 in the Los Rios region of southern Chile, orthopedic surgeon, devoted wife and loving mother Dr. Mary Neal drowned in a kayak accident. Whil...Full Review
5

January 6, 2013

A kayak accident during a South American adventure takes one woman to heaven where she experienced God's peace, joy, and angels and back to life again. In 1999 in the Los Rios region of southern Chile, orthopedic surgeon, devoted wife and loving mother Dr. Mary Neal drowned in a kayak accident. While cascading down a waterfall, her kayak became pinned at the bottom and she was immediately and ...
1

Feb 13, 2019

To Heaven and Back is not the book to read if you're interested in near-death experiences. The fact that the author is a trained surgeon led me to assume I would hear a scientific approach to her experiences after nearly drowning in a kayaking accident on a river in Chile. It's quite the opposite. The book seemed deeply confused; and I did not find the author sympathetic in the least. She claims to have been directly saved by God more than once, in fact several times in her life; but somehow To Heaven and Back is not the book to read if you're interested in near-death experiences. The fact that the author is a trained surgeon led me to assume I would hear a scientific approach to her experiences after nearly drowning in a kayaking accident on a river in Chile. It's quite the opposite. The book seemed deeply confused; and I did not find the author sympathetic in the least. She claims to have been directly saved by God more than once, in fact several times in her life; but somehow managed to stop thinking about God in between these salvations, until the near-drowning.

I think there is a different book in this story. The author and her husband are both orthopedists, and Mary Neal has a primo position at USC for several years. She manages to have four children too, assisted in her mothering duties by a live-in nanny. This family has everything -- everything material in every conceivable way. When they tire of Los Angeles, they give up their posts and move to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. That's fantastic too and everybody loves them. But then they have some issues with their partners in the practice; they go for vacation to the Virgin Islands and hear a local minister preach on Easter Sunday. They immediately go back to their hotel and wire in their resignations and start their own new practice (non-compete clauses no problem, somehow).

Later on, Mary arranges the trip to Chile as a birthday present for her husband. There are 10- to 20-foot waterfalls on this river, but she writes that these are well "within [their] competence" as kayakers. OK, maybe, but husband Bill does not go on the trip on which Mary nearly drowns.

She has her accident on the first serious waterfall they encounter. It is really someone else's fault, though, a woman kayaker whom Mary strongly suspected was not a competent boater. Maybe that's so. In any event, Mary is saved from drowning, but has serious injuries to her legs that will require casts and immobilization.

After returning from Mary's near-drowning, there is one real tragedy still to come in their lives. But before it does, Bill seems already to have become seriously depressed with life. And Mary herself is depressed, which she attributes to her wishing she were back in the Heaven she briefly experienced during her near-death moments. She only returned to her body, very grudgingly to hear her tell it, because her friends on the kayaking trip were so distraught at her apparent death. She loves her children, but.... they were among the reasons she is not where she thinks she really belongs.

Writing this book, she seems to me to have gone back over her life with an intensive desire to find God everywhere in it. And she does, believe me. She has already told us of their tremendous achievements, wonderful love, great family, material abundance, championship-level sports accomplishments.... now it turns out God has been with her all the way, too. It is way too much. It is the "American Dream" on steroids -- or LSD. Yet still, after all that, she and her husband were both depressed.

That is certainly a prescription for finding God. But there seems to me to be something seriously missing between the lines here somewhere. That is where an interesting book could have taken shape, I think. What that whole story is I wouldn't know, but the one that is here is unsatisfying and unconvincing. Avoid. ...more
5

Mar 28, 2018

I loved this book. I like books about this subject. I loved her account and loved the spiritual nature of this book.
0

Jul 17, 2018

I can't really give it a rating based on how I normally rate books, but this was a good inspirational book. A remarkable (if not somewhat odd) story, but a quick read.
3

May 25, 2012

Within the last few years, I've greatly enjoyed reading a couple of books that recounted the testimonies of those who claim to have had experiences in heaven. Don Piper's book 90 Minutes in Heaven was amazing, and his continued testimony of how he has endured physical and emotional pain since his return is inspiring. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of years ago, and I look forward to finishing his follow-up book of encouragements, Heaven is Real.

This past Christmas I also read the Within the last few years, I've greatly enjoyed reading a couple of books that recounted the testimonies of those who claim to have had experiences in heaven. Don Piper's book 90 Minutes in Heaven was amazing, and his continued testimony of how he has endured physical and emotional pain since his return is inspiring. I had the pleasure of meeting him a couple of years ago, and I look forward to finishing his follow-up book of encouragements, Heaven is Real.

This past Christmas I also read the jaw-dropping story of Colton Burpo in Heaven is for Real, which has spent many weeks on the bestseller lists. In both cases, I was awed, inspired and given so much hope from the experiences of these two individuals. As a Christian I do believe in heaven, but to hear direct testimony from these guys was just incredible. And while their stories are amazing, I felt comfortable believing in what they've been sharing with their audiences.

Recently I saw Dr. Mary Neal on a national news program sharing her own heavenly story as well, and my interest was piqued. I read her book To Heaven and Back, and while I found it interesting and at times amazing, I didn't feel as compelled to buy into everything that was shared in her story. I believe that she's sharing from her heart, that she has good intentions and that she did have these experiences. I just felt that theologically there were some "red flags" in her story. I always try to apply what I know of God's word whenever I hear stories like hers, and for some reason, I felt that some of it just didn't line up.

I'm not trying to discount eyewitness accounts of miracles that most certainly occurred the day of Dr. Neal's accident. I do believe in miracles, both ancient and modern, and I do accept that many miraculous things have happened to Mary. There were just some subsequent spiritual moments and revelations in her life that I cannot be certain were from the Lord.

For example, she believes that we existed before our birth here on earth, and that we have already seen the basic outline of how our lives are going to play out. She also believes that very young children still hold the memories of their pre-earth lives. She states:

"In preparation for our journey to earth, we are able to make a basic outline for our life. This is not to imply that we, the humans, are entirely in charge of our life's design. It is more like God creates it, then we review it and discuss it with our 'personal planning' angel. Within the algorithm are written branch points in our lives at which times we may exit, returning to God, or we may be redirected to a different task and goal."

I know that Dr. Neal is just writing from her heart, sharing what she has experienced and truly believes. I also know that there is much about the spirit world that we cannot begin to comprehend, sometimes making it very difficult to verify. There are forces that can disguise themselves as angels of light, deceiving us into believing things that seem to be lovely and true, but in actuality go against what the Lord has told us in His word.

Unfortunately, I'm not enough a Biblical scholar to specifically refute the things that didn't sit well with me in this book. Much of To Heaven and Back was encouraging and amazing, showing God's definite hand in the life of this intelligent, caring woman. There were just enough doubtful elements that keep me from accepting the whole of the book. My recommendation would be to read her story with both an open mind and a skeptic's heart as well. There's much to learn from Dr. Mary Neal's testimony, but I would take care as you experience it for yourself. ...more

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