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Monday, January 19, 2015

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: Kids Shouldn't Write Memoirs

     Writing and publishing a memoir that features a child's recollection of events is not only ridiculous, it's an abuse of the youngster, the genre, and the people who pay good money to read what they think is a nonfiction book.

     In 2010, Tyndale House, a leading publisher of so-called Christian books, came out with a memoir called, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels and Life Beyond the World. The subject of the book, Alex Malarkey, is listed as the author of the memoir along with his father, Kevin. (In the memoir genre the concept of authorship has been rendered almost meaningless. So has the fiction/nonfiction distinction.)

     The spiritual, uplifting story begins with a 2004 automobile accident that put Alex Malarkey into a coma that took him to Heaven where he saw angels and spoke to Jesus. The publicity savvy father and son writing team took advantage of the feel-good appeal this journey into the afterlife held for fluff morning television and other media outlets. The book became a bestseller. By 2014, the publisher had sold 120,000 copies of the memoir.

     In 2014, shortly after Tyndale House brought out a new edition of the memoir that featured the cover blurb: "A true story," Alex Malarkey, in an open letter to the reading public, admitted that the book was a lie, a fraud driven by his desire for attention. (The fraudulent memoir has become so common it could be designated a literary sub-genre.)

    According to the boy, "I did not die. I did not go to Heaven. When I made those claims I had never read the Bible. People have profited from my lies and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough."

     The publisher, in early January 2015, pulled the book off the market. The discrediting of this memoir had been foreshadowed by the young author's mother, an early critic of the book. In April 2014 she wrote on her blog that her son had been exploited and that she found the book's success "both puzzling and painful to watch." 

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