To Heaven and Back, by Mary Neal

Libbi’s Nonfiction Book Review

Mary Neal was an aspiring spinal surgeon, who had loved the outdoors since she was a small girl. It comes as no surprise when she begins to kayak. In a kayaking accident only a few months later, she supposedly dies and goes to heaven. She writes this book as her autobiography.

The Truth

Usually I write reviews in four sections:  The book condensed into a paragraph; I liked; I didn’t like; and overall. This time, I only found need for two of them. I was excited to get this book in the mail, thinking it would be like the other books on heaven I have read (Heaven by Jesse Duplantis; I Believe in Visons by Kenneth Hagin; Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo). I started it, disagreed with some of her statements from the beginning, but gave her book the benefit of the doubt. I continued reading, and I was in disbelief how depressing her book was. I have listened to sermons and stories, read books and watched TV specials about people who went to heaven and came back, and all of them were extremely uplifting, and made me happy, which brings me to my next point. Her story does not line up with the Bible, and neither does it line up with the hundreds of other stories about heaven. In all the times people have gone to heaven and come back, what makes their stories legit is when they are years apart, but they still have the same basic outline. Hers was VERY different from the others I have read. Here are the statements that I disagreed with, and found to be somewhat of heresy.

She spoke of when she first died, she went up the hallway with “human souls” while she said she could not recognize who they were personally, she did in fact say they were human. I am fairly certain (in fact, completely certain) that the Bible says nothing about being met when you die by your great aunt Josephine. Just saying.

She also said that when the souls were leading her to “heaven,” she heard her friends begging her to take a breath, and so she repeatedly would go back and forth to take a breath. This is not the problem. The problem is when she said she began to get annoyed at her friends. In heaven, we will be so filled with the love of God, that there will be no room for anything else, such as irritation, anxiety, and tiredness. She also spoke of the process of returning to her earthly body and back with the souls as being tiring. Here are a few scriptures to combat her statements.

Ephesians 5:11 – Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. If God is saying to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness (such as irritation) why would He have them in heaven? 

1 John 1:5 – This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:6 – If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.

In her entire account of going to “heaven,” she never mentioned anything giving praise to God, nor did they speak much of anything besides her still having a job on earth. In EVERY single account of heaven that I have read/listened to, they all say how the angels, and everything in heaven says, “Glory to God.” just about once per sentence.

Acts 7:55 – But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. It didn’t mention him seeing souls, or a hall filled with beings, it focuses on God.

Revelation 21:23 –  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

Revelation 4:8 – Day and night they never stop saying, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was, and is, and is to come.

Revelation 7:11-12 – All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Praise, glory, wisdom, thanks, honor, power, and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!”

She mentioned speaking to an “angel” in a field. Funny thing is, she said she did not know whether it was an angel, some other spiritual being, or Jesus Himself. I strongly believe that it would be impossible to not know it was Jesus if He was standing next to you.

2 Corinthians 11:14 – And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. Just to clarify, I am not saying that she saw Satan (although it is possible). And, the doctrine that the “angel” gave her was not correct.

Revelation 1:13-17 – Among the lampstands was someone like a son of man dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.” Just going out on a whim here, but I believe if you experienced Jesus in a supernatural setting like the one she described, it wouldn’t be very hard to figure out who it was.

She talked about how God knew her son was not going to live to be eighteen, and it was in His plan, and said that angels guide our every move, and we are predestined to do whatever it is we do. This is very touchy subject with the church, to be predestined, or not to be?  I will hopefully be able to approach this subject in a future post, but for sake of time, let us just say I disagree with it. However, the part I will write about is this: God did not plan for her son to die before he was eighteen, and I have the scriptures to back up my point.

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I think it is awful that her son died so soon, but I also stand by the fact that it was not God’s will for him to die.

I am not a skeptical person, and I am very trusting. I cannot recommend this book to anyone, because the doctrine is really flawed. I sincerely hope the best for Mary Neal, but I would discourage you from reading this book. I give this book 0 out of 5 stars.

Libbi H.

Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Note: Waterbrook Multnomah gave me this book in exchange for an honest review.

Libbi is a homeschooler who runs the Life is Funner blog at She likes peacocks, the color pink, hair accessories, and reading biographies.

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