Tyndale House, a major Christian publisher, has announced that it will stop selling “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” by Alex Malarkey and his father, Kevin Malarkey. It turns out that the book is a bunch of . . . well . . . malarkey. Published in 2010, the book is an account of how Alex fell into a coma when he was six years old that lasted for two months. Alex said that during the coma he went to heaven and encountered the angelic aftermath awaiting the faithful. Alex however has now recanted the book and said that none of the heavenly account is true. Tyndale House has announced that it will no longer print the book.
The book is part of a genre described as “heavenly tourism” and promises an account of “Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World.” This month, Alex wrote a letter to Christian bookstores saying “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.”
The aftermath of the accident was anything but divine for Alex. His spinal column was severed at the neck in the crash on the way home from church. He was left paralyzed and requires constant care. He apologizes for making up the trip to heaven and admitted “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.”
In the meantime, Alex’s mother, Beth Malarkey denounced the book and said that “it is both puzzling and painful to watch the book ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned.” What is curious is that she accused those behind the book of ignoring her son’s prior objections and says he “has not received monies from the book nor have a majority of his needs been funded by it.” It is unclear why Alex did not receive any monies on a book that he is listed as co-author with the father. That seems a much more interesting story.
Beth has , issued a statement in which she also noted:
I also want to correct one glaring error that has appeared in countless news articles over the past few days: I have not divorced my husband and I am not planning to pursue a divorce. Kevin and I are still married. My hope is that all of this can be resolved in a way that exalts Christ by honoring the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:14). That, likewise, has been Alex’s only aim in all his attempts to set the record straight.
In a separate statement, Alex says “People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.” But who got the profits? This was a best seller by the Christian book publisher. One site notes that the publisher refused to pull the book even after being told that it was a hoax: “The publisher refused to pull or alter the book. Alex’s father, thrilled with the book’s best-seller status, stood with the publisher. Even a pastor from whom Alex sought counsel said he thought the book was “blessing” people. He advised Alex to be quiet and let it ride.”
That still leaves the question of the money, which presumably the father received from the book. Critics charged that it was the father who wrote the book and “embellished” on the account of his son — and holds the copyright. There is also the question of a religiously oriented publication that allegedly refuses to listen to objections from the boy that it is publishing a false account and some pastor who tells a boy that it is better to lie about God than tell people the truth. Again, that is all far more interesting than the original tale.
I am less critical of Alex. The boy was recovering from a horrific accident. Indeed, he will never fully recover. He created a story that gave his suffering meaning. It reminds me of the Story of Pi where the boy is faced with a horrific story of the death of this family and struggle in a life book or a fantastic story of his bond with a tiger:
Adult Pi Patel: I’ve told you two stories about what happened out on the ocean. Neither explains what caused the sinking of the ship, and no one can prove which story is true and which is not. In both stories, the ship sinks, my family dies, and I suffer.
Adult Pi Patel: So which story do you prefer?
[the writer pauses for a moment]
Writer: The one with the tiger. That’s the better story.
Adult Pi Patel: Thank you. And so it goes with God.