Hearts of the Fathers: A story of Heaven, Hell, and the hope of new life after life, by Sheldon Lawrence, is a profound, thought-provoking book delving into the universal question of where our spiritual journey takes us after death. Based in part upon Lawrence’s research into numerous accounts of near-death experiences, the book paints a fascinating portrayal of an afterlife just as varied, complex and profound as life before death.
The novel begins with a man who finds himself in a horrific car accident caused by his own negligence. Terrified at the realization of the consequences of his poor choices, the man flees the scene of the accident only to later realize that he has, in fact, died in the crash, leaving behind his son and other loved ones. The story follows the ensuing journey of this father through his hell of guilt, shame, confusion and hopelessness to his ultimate rescue and redemption.
Lawrence’s hauntingly beautiful story of love and forgiveness invites us to see life, priorities, and relationships through an entirely new perspective. The book’s universal appeal will resonate with readers of diverse religious backgrounds. It reminds us all that our choices do matter and have profound effects both here and hereafter, not only for ourselves, but for those we love as well. For those who have ever contemplated what might await after this life, and what the next life has to do with this life, Lawrence’s book is a must-read.
INTERVIEW WITH SHELDON LAWRENCE
1) What inspired the themes of the book (near death, after death experiences)?
Sheldon: I grew up in a religious home, but an important part of my own spiritual journey has come through the study of near-death experiences. While it started with a fascination with what lies beyond death, I soon came to value the wisdom that experiencers brought back from the other side. I believe it is possible to be too concerned with the next life while neglecting this one. But that’s what I like about NDEs; they teach us how to better live in this world and to see this reality as just one step in a much larger journey.
2) What events in the story are based on real near-death experiences that you yourself have researched?
Sheldon: There is no part of the story that draws upon one particular experience. In fact, never once in the writing did I pause to research or draw upon a particular NDE. The world-building and spiritual themes come from a lifetime of not only the study of NDEs, but of the religious texts of the major world religions. Having said that, I wasn’t just making up random stuff; just about every theme or event in the novel correlates to something in the NDE or wisdom literature, but my object was not to create a kind of prototypical NDE master narrative. Rather, I wanted to show that our spiritual journeys continue into the next life in a very concrete way. We do not just float around in the ether but are engaged in the work of lifting one another into higher states of consciousness.
3) What was it like/what inspired you to go from a non-fiction genre (you have written a lot in the personal memoir area) to a fiction genre?
Sheldon: Fiction is, for me, a way of exploring ideas without coming across as a self-appointed guru or “more enlightened than thou.” Fiction allows for exploration without saying, “This is the absolute Truth. Full stop.” I also feel like writing fiction taps into a part of our brain and imagination that allows for—for lack of a better word—revelation. Unfettered by the need to document factual events, our mind is free to draw from deeper archetypes and symbolic truths. There is a wisdom in fiction that is often deeper than actual reality.
4) What kind of reception have you received from your book so far?
Sheldon: I have been very pleased with the response. I was concerned at first because the story starts out in a dark and hellish realm; I was worried people would fixate on that or give up too early and miss the message of redemption and hope. But that has not been the case. The most gratifying and common feedback I get is how the book helps readers gain a new and more expansive view of what we are doing on this planet and why it matters. One woman who suffered from a lot of anxiety and guilt in her spiritual life said reading the book felt like lifting a huge burden from her shoulders. She said she now has this sense of peace, that everything is going to work out, and that his feeling has made her a better mother.
Book clubs have reported that the book sparked deep discussions that went well into the night and never strayed from the themes of the text. That kind of response is beautiful to me, and it’s humbling to know the book has enabled those kinds of discussions and awakenings.
Thanks to reviewer and interviewer Eleisha Clayton, a teacher, blogger, avid reader, and book reviewer who is currently pursuing her master’s degree in educational technology.
Becca Chopra, author of The Chakra Diaries, Chakra Secrets, Balance Your Chakras-Balance Your Life and The Chakra Energy Diet