• To Heaven and Back

  • A Doctor's Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story
  • By: Mary C. Neal MD
  • Narrated by: Rebecca Lowman
  • Length: 4 hrs and 42 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (977 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A kayak accident during a South American adventure takes one woman to heaven — where she experienced God’s peace, joy, and angels — and back to life again.

In 1999 in the Los Rios region of southern Chile, orthopedic surgeon, devoted wife, and loving mother Dr. Mary Neal drowned in a kayak accident. While cascading down a waterfall, her kayak became pinned at the bottom and she was immediately and completely submerged. Despite the rescue efforts of her companions, Mary was underwater for too long, and as a result, died.

To Heaven and Back is Mary’s remarkable story of her life’s spiritual journey and what happened as she moved from life to death to eternal life, and back again. Detailing her feelings and surroundings in heaven, her communication with angels, and her deep sense of sadness when she realized it wasn’t her time, Mary shares the captivating experience of her modern-day miracle.

Mary’s life has been forever changed by her newfound understanding of her purpose on earth, her awareness of God, her closer relationship with Jesus, and her personal spiritual journey suddenly enhanced by a first-hand experience in heaven. To Heaven and Back will reacquaint you with the hope, wonder, and promise of heaven, while enriching you own faith and walk with God.

©2012 Mary C. Neal M.D. (P)2012 Random House

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What listeners say about To Heaven and Back

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

To Heaven and back

Is there anything you would change about this book?

I had hoped to hear more in her out-of-body experience, however it was a good listen.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Surprised and pleased.

Was To Heaven and Back worth the listening time?

Yes

12 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Christian witness for the most part

It strength and weakness is that the book is primarily a Christian witness. I purchased the book out of curiosity about the NDE The book advertises. However, the book spends very little time on the NDE. Most of the book is Dr. Neal's life story, with an emphasis on how God has touched her life.

It was enjoyable for the most part but the marketing was misleading.

The narrator did a fine job.

30 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Misleading Title!

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

This would be a good book for someone who is interested in an autobiography of a Christian woman doctor. The title is very misleading, with only a few pages about the author's brief experience in the afterlife.

What could Mary C. Neal have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I don't know if Ms Neal was at fault, or if it was her publisher, who came up with the misleading title and book description. The book would have been more enjoyable if it had been more about the afterlife.

Any additional comments?

I am a Christian and believe in the afterlife, and I do not doubt what the author experienced... I'm just disappointed that this book was more about the life of the author, with only about 5-10 minutes about the afterlife. Beware, the book title and publisher summary are misleading!

15 people found this helpful

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Not much story and a lot of Bible references

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Stick to the story of the NDE.

What was most disappointing about Mary C. Neal’s story?

The actual NDE experience is less than 10% of this story. Is that really all the author got out of the experience?

Which character – as performed by Rebecca Lowman – was your favorite?

NA

What character would you cut from To Heaven and Back?

NA

Any additional comments?

If you want biblical references that tie to what the Author experienced you will be happy. If you want to know what the author experienced and learned during the NDE you will likely be disappointed.

6 people found this helpful

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Incredible!

Would you listen to To Heaven and Back again? Why?

Yes. The story is so moving in so many ways. Very credible with many joys and sorrows but mostly that there is a wonderful afterlife waiting for us.

What did you like best about this story?

That God sent Mary back to comfort her family and relay the message from Him that He is for real, loves us beyond measure and that we will be reunited with Him and all of our loved ones one day.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The relationship she has with her son Will and the messages that he gives her.

Any additional comments?

Loved it!

9 people found this helpful

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A Strange Mix of New Age, Spiritism and Christiani

Any additional comments?

I believe that all people who bought this book were expecting to find some kind of description of Heaven, much like the famous book about the little boy who died and came back to life. Well, sorry to disappoint you, but she didn't even get to Heaven. She got stuck at some kind of reception hall and came back. The event is, in reality, a deceptive hook for the author to spend 90% of the book talking about her personal theology. And bad theology it is.

The book revolves on two main episodes: one is her near-drowning in a ill-planned rafting holiday in Chile and the other the sad death of her young son. During the time her kayak was stuck in the bottom of the river, the author says she had an out-of-body experience and met several spirits in some kind of celestial reception hall of Heaven. The spirits don't talk much, and she had to come back to her body because her friends were calling her name. I had the feeling I was reading a book from Shirley McLaine. We must remind ourselves that out-of-body, or astral projection experiences are very common among occultists and new agers. Did she test the spirits to know if they were from God ? Not at all.

There is also much Spiritist doctrine in the book, doctrine that sounds like it came straight from a book from Alan Kardec. Dead people come back to give guidance to family and everybody has a mission on Earth to accomplish. Angels are responsible for every little thing we do. Dead people make trees bloom as signs for the living. I kid you not, the only thing missing is reincarnation.

The author gives us the very strong impression that she is the kind of person who must have things her own way. She reminds us every couple of pages how she and her family are over-achievers, that she is a brilliant physician and a scientist (sic), and a sportswoman of the highest caliber.I was expecting that she would climb the Everest next. For people with this kind of personality, accepting the simple truths of the Gospel, the childish faith and trust that is necessary to become a real Christian, is a challenge. One has to keep his faith even in times of doubt and lack of spiritual signs. Like Job, in the end one must accept the fact that God may not give us answers at this time. The hardest part of the Christian life is realizing one is not in control.

Instead, the author claims to trust God, but she does it in her own terms. She sees herself as a hunter for coincidences in life that give her a clear view of what God does. She is always on top and has explanations for everything, but they don't come from the Bible. She even knows that her son will die young. Much of her confidence comes from encounters with a mysterious spirit guide, whom she says "may" be Jesus...or not. Any believer would check in her Bible if it is OK to talk with a dead person, for example. But the author is above this kind of humble faith.

I sympathize with the suffering the author went through with the death of her son, but this is no excuse to sell a book about going to Heaven when she has not, and to claim to be a special believer worthy of individual revelation, when these revelations contradict plain doctrine. Real encounters with Jesus, face to face or "only" spiritual, usually change people. Here in the book we see only the over-achieving, totally in control person changing the focus of her energy from her career to a kind of spirituality she can control and define.

As a Christian, I must admit I had a feeling of spiritual oppression after reading the first chapters. Buyer, beware.

Narration: as usual, very professional narrator, but the sad and "profound" tone the narrator was probably told to use is boring and as the book advances, irritating.

9 people found this helpful

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Travel Brochure to a Place We Can All Go

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

The overview of her life sets the background for her encounter with the afterlife. Her life after the encounter feeds off the joy and purpose she discovered while there, and which made it possible for her to deal with the severe emotional trauma of losing a child.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The author herself was a very real character and portrayed herself in a very easy-to-relate-to way.

Which scene was your favorite?

I especially liked the scene where she is drowning in the waterfall and yet feels no pain or anxiety. From our human way of thinking those should have been the most unbelievably awful moments and yet she distinctly remembers being completely bored.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I would have listened to it all in one sitting, even though the pace slowed somewhat after her return to this life, but time did not allow it.

8 people found this helpful

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A Narcisists Legendary Tale

What would have made To Heaven and Back better?

Leave out personal religious and political beliefs.

Would you ever listen to anything by Mary C. Neal again?

No.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

She did not focus on the title of the book. What draws the reader to the book is the title and the promise of hearing a story of angels and life after death from a medical doctor's perspective. She focused instead on her personal accomplishments here on earth. We learn mostly that she is highly educated, well traveled, a world class athlete, and of course a perfect mother.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

I just finished the book, and was so disappointed. I purchased it because I lost my sister recently and wanted something uplifting.
I was surprised to discover there is very little in this book about death, heaven, and angels.

The book is mostly comprised of Dr. Neil's narcissistic rantings about her accomplishments in life (beginning in childhood) and religious/political beliefs.
It's almost like reading someone's journal. She seems to be ego tripping all over herself throughout the book. By halfway through the book, I'm thinking, OK, we get it, you are a brilliant, highly educated, cultured, world class athlete, all the while being the perfect parent.

It's ironic that she says she embraces "finding joy" every day in her life. I "find" that hard to believe if her book is any indication. The entire book is bleak, depressing, and dark, even when she is describing what should be a happy experience.

I'm a religious person, and even I grew tired of the constant interjection of her torturous and redundant perspective on religion and faith. There are countless numbers of quotes and readings from the bible. One might start to wonder if she was using them as filler.

Despite all of the good doctors success in life, the reader will likely get the strong impression that Dr. Neil feels like she has endured many injustices throughout her life.

Welcome to life here on earth Dr. Neil!

30 people found this helpful

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A book about religion

so yeah, I have listen to the start of the book and all the god talk makes it hard to listen to. I'm still no where near the NDE part of the story yet and already it's all about god this and god that. If I wanted this much god I would have read the bible, so this turned out to be a hard listen. sadly I won't get to the NDE part when all this book is about is god. Every little thing that happens in this book she believes is god. It's just too much! So, unless you are a god freak like this author you won't like this book. It is disappointing, but it is what it is.

1 person found this helpful

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Happy to Hear My Lost Book on Audio

My husband lost my paperback of this book when my house was being renovated. I looked it up on Amazon & was thankful to see it was on audio. I read, I mean listened, to the whole book TODAY (even though I had already read the first 3-4 chapters previously) because of the nice voice that read it and all the ups and downs in the book. It was so well written that I couldn’t put it (my phone) down and only took a few breaks. I wish I could find the book to pass it on to my mom and then the church.

1 person found this helpful