Review of Five Years in Heaven by John Schlimm

Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life's Greatest QuestionsFive Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions by John Schlimm

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John is in his thirties and at a crossroads in his life. A chance encounter with an elderly nun, who’s also a ceramic artist, leads him to seek answers to questions about God, life, forgiveness and other important questions. He returns to the Sister’s workshop over a period of five years and the two form a friendship and a bond of teacher and student.

I had such high expectations for this book. I read the glowing reviews, as well as the critical reviews and decided to make my own conclusions. As a child, I was raised a Catholic and the idea of a nun as a mentor, life coach and teacher was appealing to me. Yet, I found Five Years in Heaven somewhat tedious – for me, it fell short of what it could have been.

John Schlimm’s writing is overly and unnecessarily elaborate. Much of his descriptive passages could have been greatly simplified. Sentences like, “I felt another weight lifted from my shoulders. A fresh, toothsome breeze through the screen door baptized the moment,” sounded false and contrived to me. In fact, I felt that much of the flowery prose weighed the book down needlessly. It would have been so much better if the author had allowed the wisdom of Sister Augustine’s words speak for themselves. She came across as a wise and loving tutor and someone I would love to have met.

And, speaking of Sister Augustine’s words, throughout the book I wondered how the heck the author was able to recall years-old conversations word for word. Was he taking notes? Did he rush home after each “session” to jot things down? If not, then my concern is this leaves too much room for unintentional story embellishment after the fact.

Then there were the endless cat anecdotes. The passages describing the adorable antics of Blitzen the cat went on for far too many pages. This was more fluff than substance and didn’t seem to serve any real purpose.

Five Years in Heaven wasn’t a bad book. It depicts religion (specifically Catholicism), and having an optimistic attitude in general, in a positive light and that’s always a good thing. The book’s subtitle, “The Unlikely Friendship that Answered Life’s Greatest Questions”, seemed a bit of a stretch. However, I feel that the wisdom and positivity shared by Sister Augustine make it worth reading this book. received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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