Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Heaven Is Here - Stephanie Nielson


Summary: When Stephanie Nielson began writing about her life in 2005, in what soon became the very popular blog Nie Nie Dialogues, she was deeply in love with her husband, Christian, enjoying raising their four young children, and fulfilled by her faith and close-knit community.  However, everything changed in an instant on a sunny day in August 2008, when Stephanie and Christian were in a horrific plane crash.  Christian was burned over 40 percent of his body, and Stephanie was on the brink of death, with burns over 80 percent of her body.  She would remain in a coma for four months.

Now, in this moving memoir, Stephanie shares the full, extraordinary story of her unlikely survival and the incredible love behind it -- from a gripping account of the crash to all that followed in its wake.  With her trademark wit and candor, Stephanie recounts her first painful days after awakening from her come, the first time she saw her face in the mirror, the first time she saw her children, and the first kiss she shared with Christian after the accident.  She also reflects back on life before the crash and the origins of her strength, faith, and family ties, which became the foundation for her survival.

What emerges from the wreckage of a tragic accident is an undying love affair and the conviction that there is joy and beauty to be found in every journey, no matter what life throws at you.  Heaven is Here is a poignant reminder of how faith and family, love and community can bolster us, sustain us, quite literally, in some cases, save us. (Summary from book - Image from nieniedialogues.com - Book given free for an honest review)

My Review:  If you read only one book this year, make it this one. Heaven is Here is a stunningly honest memoir written by Stephanie Nielson, author of the internationally popular blog, Nie Nie Dialogues. I picked it up thinking I knew everything there was to know about her story and I couldn’t have been more wrong. Reading this book was a revelation, and I found inspiration in a place I simply did not expect.

In August 2008, Stephanie Nielson was living a fairytale life with her sweetheart, Christian – relishing her role as wife, mother of four, and lifestyle blogger.
When Stephanie, her husband, and a close friend decided to make a quick trip to the family ranch, their small plane crashed just after take-off and was rapidly engulfed in flames. Although Stephanie was left trapped inside, she managed to escape the inferno and spent the next several months fighting for her life in a medically induced coma. Christian had survived but their dear friend had not. Stephanie’s body had received catastrophic burns and she awoke wrapped head to toe in bandages, facing a life of excruciating pain and uncertainty. The fairytale, as she knew it, was over – or so it seemed.

In Heaven is Here, Stephanie shares her amazing story of faith, love, and perseverance with her trademark optimism, insight, and emotional authenticity. Looking back on the horrific plane crash that dramatically changed her life, this devoted young mother says that “almost dying has taught me a valuable lesson about living.” Even in her darkest moments – the first glimpse of her scars, the fear in her children’s eyes, or enduring the callous stares of strangers -- Stephanie was buoyed by her faith in God and the unswerving devotion and support of those around her. Heaven is Here is a poignant chronicle of her journey to reclaim the remnants of her old life and, from them build anew.

Stephanie’s memoir, like her life, is infused with her personal beliefs. Although her Mormon faith is definitely present in the pages of this book, her approach isn’t pushy and her experience and message of hope holds universal appeal, regardless of religious preference. As a good friend of mine said, when she finished reading it in a day – “You don’t have to be Mormon to love this book!”

I was forever changed, inspired, and uplifted by Stephanie’s example. Her experience spoke to me on so many levels – as a wife, mother, and woman of faith – and moved me to tears of sadness, laughter, and joy. Stephanie’s love of life and her courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable trials prompted me to take greater joy the everyday moments of life, especially those spent with family. It taught me that, with a belief in something higher than ourselves, hope can be found even in the midst of profound devastation.

If all my gushing hasn’t convinced you, I highly recommend that you:
View the Book Trailer  --  See video-enhanced Digital Preview -- Visit Stephanie’s Blog     

My Rating:  5 BEAUTIFUL STARS!!
For the sensitive reader:  Have at it.  No complaints here.
Sum it up:  Heaven Is Here is one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read.  Nie is my hero.
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But wait….  Personally, I believe that Stephanie's message of hope will appeal to everyone, regardless of religious preference.  However, because I am Mormon and can’t really remove that perspective from my review, I’ve asked my friend Larissa (who had never heard of Stephanie and who is actively involved in another faith) to review Heaven Is Here with me.
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Larissa’s review:  The first I heard of Stephanie Nielson was when Mindy asked if I'd be interested in reading her memoir and reviewing it. I'm not LDS, but I do have a strong religious background.  Mindy promised me that this wasn't some sneaky attempt to convert me, and at first I was unsure about what messages would be conveyed through the book, but I was pleasantly surprised. Stephanie is not shy about her faith. And while there are many mentions of ideals and beliefs that are specifically Mormon, there are many more instances where the ideals are applicable to all faiths and even non-faiths. Stephanie went through a traumatic experience and I think anyone from any background can connect with Stephanie and feel part of her pain.

I was incredibly intrigued by Stephanie's story and really enjoyed hearing about her life before and after the accident. She left me feeling inspired and motivated. I wanted to hug my child and husband and I wanted to remember not to take any day for granted. Stephanie Nielson's story is devastating. But it's also a story full of hope and an uplifting message. I recommend this book to ANYONE. You don't have to be Mormon to appreciate the beauty in this story and in Stephanie's life.
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Support independent booksellers and purchase Heaven Is Here online via Powells Books or visit an indie bookstore near you!
You can also purchase her books through Amazon, Barnes & Noble.  Available for Kindle, Nook, and ITunes.

3 comments:

Theresa Clarke said...

I thought the book was great. I was captivated by Stephanie's courage and demeanor and couldn't wait for the library to get a copy so I bought my own, and I'm broke. I actually brought it to churc...h with me last Sunday to show my pastor, since Stephanie speaks of her faith and God in the most eloquent, authentic and moving way I have ever read. At one point I began to believe that she is a saint, and she is pure. I read this book cover to cover in about three days, and I'm a single mom. I have people waiting to read it . Stephanie Nielsen is all I could talk about after the People and Parade articles and my discovering her blog, and she is truly inspiring. An honest, fascinating and open read.

Theresa Clarke said...

I thought the book was great. I was captivated by Stephanie's courage and demeanor and couldn't wait for the library to get a copy so I bought my own, and I'm broke. I actually brought it to churc...h with me last Sunday to show my pastor, since Stephanie speaks of her faith and God in the most eloquent, authentic and moving way I have ever read. At one point I began to believe that she is a saint, and she is pure. I read this book cover to cover in about three days, and I'm a single mom. I have people waiting to read it . Stephanie Nielsen is all I could talk about after the People and Parade articles and my discovering her blog, and she is truly inspiring. An honest, fascinating and open read.

Yerba said...

This book has inspired me to be a better mother, and a better wife, and better at talking to God and more importantly, LISTENING to God. I am not Mormon, but this book speaks to me just as if I was - Jesus is universal! Stephanie is such an example of beauty, faith, perserverance, hope, love, family...She is awesome. I am obsessed with her blog now! :)

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