Thursday, March 15, 2012

HEAVEN IS HERE by Stephanie Nielson

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

I am always interested in how well bloggers can make the leap from the more informal style of blogging to the more formal style of writing a book.  Sometimes an individual's story translates well and sometimes it doesn't.  Bloggers must walk a fine line between offering something new to their long-time readers while attempting to share their story with people who may be new readers. 

I started following Stephanie Nielson's NIENIE DIALOGUES blog just after her horrific plane accident in August of 2008.  I was drawn to her story because of all the many many member of the blogging community who banded together to help the Nielson family.  So, I have been reading her blog for the last 3.5 years.  I was very familiar with her story but I was hoping her book would fill in some blanks for me as a regular reader of her blog.

Stephanie Nielson is a Mormon Mommy blogger who rose to popularity with her tales of family life and creative celebrations of every day moments. In August 2008, Stephanie and her husband Christian were a plane crash that killed their friend and pilot Doug Kinneard.  Stephanie and Christian were both horribly burned with Stephanie sustaining burns to 80% of her body.  For the next three months following the crash, Stephanie hovered between life and death in a medically-induced coma.  Almost four years after the accident, Stephanie and her family have battled their way back from the accident as they recreated their lives and relationships.

I appreciated the amount of detail that Stephanie included in this book.  It filled in many blanks for me.  We learn of how she met Christian and their courtship and subsequent marriage.  We learn more about their early years together when Stephanie first became a mother and started blogging. And then there is the accident itself.  Stephanie is blunt and honest about her feelings when she finally woke from her coma and how she struggled to come to terms with her new life.  The most poignant moments in the book come from her attempts to reconnect with her children.  She doesn't gloss over anything and share how difficult her journey was and how much she had to rely on her faith.

The one thing I felt was missing from this story was how Stephanie and Christian rebuilt THEIR relationship.  When Stephanie appeared on "Oprah," she was still recovering and sorting through her memories of the plane crash.  At this time, she believed Christian pulled her from the plane. It was later revealed that he did not as he thought she had been able to follow him from the plane on her own.  Stephanie's sisters have talked frankly about how hard it was for Stephanie and Christian to rebuild their relationship even though there was never any doubt that they would.  I was very surprised that Stephanie didn't touch on any of this in her memoir. It is a confusing omission. 

Still, the story of the Nielson family is one of faith and the strength of love and family. I think it will appeal to many family- and faith-oriented readers even if they haven't read the NIENIE DIALOGUES before.  Long-time readers will find that the story they have followed so closely is more fleshed out in this book.  It is wonderful to see how far Stephanie and her family have come since the accident. Especially since they are now expecting their fifth child any day now. 

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended for fans of inspirational memoirs.  It is definitely an inspiring story of faith and love that will probably leave you wanting to learn more about Nielson family.

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