by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
A difficult-to-diagnose appendicitis thrusts the Burpo family into the darkest regions of medical and emotional trauma. Four-year-old Colton is ill for days before the surgeon is able to provide the potentially life-saving procedure to resolve his affliction. By this time, his parents are exhausted and beside themselves with fear and trepidation. The little boy eventually pulls through his extended treatment just fine, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief at last. The adventure is over.
But wait, there’s more. Much, much more. Young Colton has yet to tell his side of the incident, and as his narration is verbalized (in bits and pieces over months), the family understands that this was not merely a frustrating illness. Rather, it was a journey for a boy of faith to a place of peace, tranquility and love: the arms of the Savior of Mankind.
Colton Burpo provides pictures and descriptions (in authentic four-year-old terminology) of the people and premises of Heaven, which he visited during a portion of his medical experience. At first, his parents believe his commentary is little more than the active imaginations of precocious Christian boy. However, after a few particular observations that he was definitely NOT present to witness, they begin to gently query him further. The results comprise this short, fascinating book.
Regardless of any reader’s religious belief (or lack thereof), this is some pretty unforgettable stuff. Although terribly excited (he is a pastor, after all), Colton’s father makes every effort to ask non-leading questions in his quest to learn just exactly what his son experienced. Knowing that the world is populated with cynics, Burpo does his best to assure the reader that nobody ever truly interrogated his son (even though he himself desperately wanted to know everything, right now). It was clear, however, that the boy was only going to volunteer information in his own time frame.
This is a short, easy read that is concise and suffers minimally from lack of professional editing. There are, however, a few too many “astonishing” incidents that detract from the overall narrative. For me, the initial drama was acceptable, but after the tenth time, I was personally less surprised, and more annoyed at the continuing sensationalism.
And yet, I do not wish to be overly critical. Yes, the writing was not polished, but it was definitely honest. I never once felt that Burpo was trying to push or sell anything; he simply desired to share his family’s story, in his own words, and in his own method of communicating.
I will freely admit that I am a natural born skeptic, and there are certainly some details proffered by Colton that I personally find a bit dubious. Even so, I do not doubt for one second that he believes everything he has recounted, and that his family was given a marvelous experience. I am grateful that they had the courage to share it with the rest of us.