A Coastal Faith Book Review: 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and Life by Don Piper

Posted by Susan Song on


In 1989, Pastor Don Piper, returning home from a ministry conference, gets hit head-on by an 18-wheeler while crossing a bridge in his car and dies from his injuries. The paramedics arrive on the scene and declare him dead and put a tarp over his body. One of the pastors from his conference stops at the scene of the accident and, after receiving a strong calling from God, is compelled to stay by Don Piper’s body in the car and pray. After 90 minutes, Don Piper comes back to life and survives the accident. The rest of the book is about Pastor Piper’s long, painful physical and spiritual recovery from his grievous injuries and its effect on his family and church community.

The Good:

Pastor Piper's story is an incredible story in that it is true. He did clinically "die" at the scene of the crash and then miraculously regain his pulse after 90 minutes. As it is a true story, it is very inspiring to read about, and to also go along the journey of Piper's recovery. It took Piper almost two years to recover, one year spent in the hospital and, to this day, he still does not have the full use of his limbs and continues to experience a lot of discomfort.  The Pastor's suffering is very moving and relatable for a Christian, as it reminds us of the suffering Jesus went through, especially involving physical pain, depression and hopelessness. There are points along his recovery where he has breakthroughs - by listening to worship music, praying, praising the Lord which lift him from his depression and negative attitude.

Page 110:

Calmness swept over me, and I lay relaxed and very much at peace. That's when I realized another miracle had taken place: My depression had lifted. Vanished. I had been healed. Again. Stark reminders from some simple songs had changed me. The Imperials reminded me that Satan is a liar. He wants to steal our joy and replace it with hopelessness.

The Bad:

Depending on what your expectations are for the book, it doesn't really cover some of the things I thought would be germane to the story.  One is that his book title implies a lot more emphasis his time in heaven than it actually covers. His description of his time in heaven is very short and somewhat anti-climactic.  Of course, this is a very personal experience for Pastor Piper, but I was surprised at how generic the experience he described was, and how little he had to say about it other than he was happy when he was there. In the book, he explains that he was uncomfortable talking about it, but then that defeats some of the purpose of the book. For those looking for consistent references to Scripture, this books is very light on tying back to the gospel or teachings of Christ.  This book is really more of an autobiography of someone who suffered a very serious trauma. It contains a lot of detail on the surgeries and various medical procedures in pretty graphic detail. I found some of the descriptions of his embedded leg brace and various injuries quite gruesome. 

While the book had some uplifting moments, in general, the mood of the book is quite dark. Pastor Piper goes through immense physical pain and also a serious episode of depression. He spends much of his time in recovery in an almost-suicidal mindset, very negative, petulant, and complains a lot.  Of course he is going through a very serious crisis, but I think the book spend too much time on the negative mind state and not enough time on the spiritual insights.

Overall, this was a fast and easy book to read, but I expected this to have a stronger inspirational and coherent message about God and spirituality, and less about an individual person's medical journey.

My rating: 3/5 stars


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