Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005
Buy from

Rate this Book

Sonderbooks 92
     Next Book

Previous Book
        Next Book
Young Adult Fiction
Children's Nonfiction
Children's Fiction
Picture Books

2005 Stand-outs
    Previous Book
    Next Book

2004 Stand-outs
2003 Stand-outs
2002 Stand-outs
2001 Stand-outs

Five-Star Books
Next Book
Four-Star Books
Old Favorites
Back Issues
List of Reviews by Title
List of Reviews by Author

Why Read?
Children and Books
Links For Book Lovers
Book Discussion Forum

About Me
Contact Me
Make a Donation

I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


*****My Descent into Death

A Second Chance at Life

by Howard Storm

Reviewed February 23, 2005.
Doubleday, New York, 2005.  148 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (MCN B STO).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005 (#3, Christian Nonfiction)

Wow!  What a beautiful book!

I usually avoid books about near-death experiences, or at least I’ve never checked one out before.  Those people are crackpots, aren’t they?

The near-death experience described in this book is different from any others I’d heard about.  This man was an atheist and expected death to mean annihilation.  Instead of a light and a tunnel, this man was dragged off to hell!  He did rise above his body in the hospital bed, and he felt more alive than ever, but his wife couldn’t hear him or see him.  Then some voices told him to go with them, and he walked on and on and came to a place where demons began to torment him horribly.

Then he heard a voice telling him to pray to God.  The voice came again, and he tried to obey.  The demons screamed at him.  Finally, he remembered the song “Jesus Loves Me” from his childhood, and called out for Jesus to save him.  Jesus answered his prayer.  He came and healed him and enveloped him in love and took him to heaven.

In heaven, Jesus and the angels reviewed his life and showed him how he had been grieving God, Jesus, and the heavenly beings.  “The only reason I could bear to proceed with the life review was because of their love for me.  No matter what we watched me do in life, they communicated their love for me, even as they expressed their disapproval of things I did.”

They also answered many of his questions about God.  Most of it follows basic Christian theology.  Some examples:

“Those ruled by love go toward God, to heaven.  Those ruled by hate go to hell.  Our lives are the judge.  We create our own fate in the next life.  What happens to people as they leave this world and enter eternity is between them and God.  If they hate God, they are drawn away from God.”

“No one ever born was good enough to go to heaven.  God made us incomplete so that we would become perfect through our love for God.  If we were perfect, we wouldn’t have any need for God.  We are not gods.  We have God in us and with us, but we are far from being God.  God knows our deficiency and has done something to bring us home to perfection.”

“In our progression toward God we will meet the Divine Activity of God, who is known to Christians as Jesus Christ.  People who were not Christians must know the Christ as well.  No one approaches God who does not know the mediator of God.  The Christ is the creative action by which the world was created.  This personification of God has been everywhere throughout all time and space—creating, restoring, and sustaining us in the divine will.  The Christ has been in our world and adopted our human nature to help return us to God.  The Christ, in the man Jesus of Nazareth, lived, suffered, died, and was raised to new life to restore us to God.  He has identified with us so that we can identify with him.”

“Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.’  No one will go to God except through the atonement of Christ, the love of Christ, and the way of Christ.  Jesus’ teachings and practice were inclusive of all people.  Humans have tried to make him into an exclusive cult, but Jesus came for all people, and the Christ reaches to all people everywhere in all time, space, heaven, and hell.  In my experience I was with him, and I will never be apart from him in this world or the next.  During my time with Jesus, I discovered he is my best friend.”

“Through Jesus’ brief life with us, we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Nothing we do can separate us from God unless we want this.  No matter what we have said or done, God is willing, eager, and begging us to turn back to God.  Even if we think we have nailed God to a tree, God looks into our eyes and says, ‘I forgive you because you do not know what you are doing.’”

Later, he asked which is the best religion.  He was told, “The religion that brings you closest to God.”

“There are good people in bad religions and there are bad people in good religions.  It is not so important which religion, but what individuals do with the religion they have been given.  Religions are a vehicle to take you to a destination.  The purpose of religion is to help you have a personal relationship with God.  God wants us to love him with all our being and to know the truth of God.  If we find God in an intimate, loving relationship, then we are going the right way.  Too often people find religion to be self-serving, interested in perpetuating itself and controlling people’s lives in order to be dominant.  Religion is only a means to find God.  Religion is not the destination.  True religion is the love of God in every word, thought, and deed of the person.  God loves all people and is pleased by religions that seek him in spirit and in truth.

“God abhors the misuse of religion that creates divisiveness between people, that justifies violence, that promotes pride in self-righteousness.  God is far greater than any religion.  The Spirit of Christ speaks to all people in all time to draw them to God.”

Another interesting teaching had to do with angels.  I’d always been taught that angels and humans are totally separate and different creations.  This man was told that there are many kinds of angels.  (The word ‘angel’ simply means ‘messenger.’)  He said that some people who have left loved ones on earth choose to be one of their guardian angels for awhile.

The reason I found this interesting is because of a story a friend has told me.  When she was driving and came close to a terrible accident, she had a strong impression that her dead mother had saved her.  I always thought it was probably an angel, but now I think that maybe we were both right!

Howard Storm was sent back to earth and given another chance at life.  He begged to be allowed to stay, but was told, “You have many things to learn in the world, and you still have your job to do, which is to take care of the people God needs you to love.”

His life changed dramatically after this experience, and he ended up going to seminary and becoming a pastor.  The experience doesn’t sound like a hallucination, but you can read the book and decide for yourself.

After his near-death experience, Howard Storm heard many similar stories, including negative experiences like his.  Most people are afraid to talk about them, because no one wants to believe them.

After he came back to earth, Howard Storm seemed to be more able to see angels and spirit beings.  I enjoyed the story about the first time he went to church:

“The worship had just begun with the congregation singing the opening hymn when we entered the sanctuary.  A few feet inside, I saw on the ceiling of the church hundreds of angels basking in praise of God.  They were a golden color and radiated golden light around them.  The unexpected sight of the angels unleashed powerful emotions of awe of God from inside me.  I did the only thing I could do in that circumstance, which was to throw myself down on the floor.  Prostrate on the carpeted aisle, I thanked God and praised God profusely.

“Regrettably, we were not in a Pentecostal church, where this might have been acceptable behavior.  My wife bent over me, concerned that I had collapsed.  The ushers rushed to her aid, asking if they should call an ambulance.  Then my wife realized that I was in religious ecstasy and became furious with me because of the commotion I was creating in the back of the church.  She was yelling in my ear, ‘Get up!  Get up!  We will never come to church again!’  I was content to lie facedown on the floor and happily praise God.  The ushers lifted me into the closest available pew, where I sat with my face in my hands weeping and thanking God and Jesus.

“Beverly kept repeating that she was terribly embarrassed and we would never go to church again.  I couldn’t stop the tears of joy.  Whenever the congregation stood up, said prayers, or sang, I just cried.  Bent over in my pew, I was happier than I had been since the Near-Death Experience two months before.  After we left church, there was a leaden silence on the ride home.  At home Beverly said, ‘I have never been so embarrassed in my life.  We will never go to church again.’  All week I begged her to give me another chance.  I promised that I would not do it again.  I would behave properly.”

“The next Sunday we went back to Christ Church, and over the weeks I slowly resisted crying enough to sing the hymns and recite the prayers.  I continued to see the angels and their beautiful radiance in the upper portion of the worship space every Sunday.  I noticed that they were more splendid when the congregation sang and less radiant when things like announcements and collections happened.  I had the impression that I was the only one who could see the angels.”

I found this to be a beautifully uplifting book.  It reminded me that the important things are to love God and love my neighbor.  And that God loves me more than I can possibly imagine.

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

-top of page-