Jean Nielsen shares her near-death experience and encounter with God in Almost to Heaven, a memoir that encourages thankfulness.
At 52, Nielsen was a healthy, vibrant woman but suffered a tear in her coronary artery wall and nearly died. She was unaware of her rare condition: spontaneous coronary artery dissection. In painstaking detail, she recounts how doctors worked to save her life.
Nielsen claims that during two days of unconsciousness she talked with God, convincing him to let her live by promising to “become a better person” and drawing God’s attention to the people praying for her. Upon waking, Nielsen vowed to remodel her life and share that God and heaven are real and prayers are heard.
Nielsen creates great momentum in the opening chapters retelling her medical emergency, but the excitement ends abruptly after Chapter 4, leaving readers with little to hold their attention in the remaining 36 chapters. Nielsen’s inspiring message of how one person’s thankfulness and willingness to share her spiritual experience can bring about positive change in others is valuable, but it’s overwhelmed with mundane details. She names every person who visited her in the hospital and at home, recounting pointless conversations verbatim and detailing her husband’s trip to Walgreens. Given excessive attention to minutiae, the book’s tiny type and typographical errors, it is questionable whether readers will reach the end.
Those who stay will discover that Nielsen’s ultimate message revolves around her thank-you notes, which included the story of her near-death/afterlife experience. As she sent them to friends and family who provided meals, flowers, cards and prayers, they traveled throughout her community and beyond, even attracting attention from the media and local and regional hospitals.
Nielsen has a sweet, humble demeanor that is appealing, and her experience may be of interest to Christian readers, her local community and surrounding areas, and anyone studying afterlife encounters. But many readers might not have the patience to persevere.
Also available in hardcover and ebook