When Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller was a child, she imagined heaven as a benevolent place in the clouds. Now, as an adult, she isn’t so sure, admitting candidly, “I approach religion from an uneasy, nontraditional place.” Like many Americans, she has long grappled with the most basic of questions: What is heaven? And how do we get there?
In her brainy, engaging book Heaven — a sweeping historical and literary geography of heaven — she talks to priests, a Dominican monk, Muslim clerics, rabbis, and professors (and even visits a psychic, who channels a balding Ed Asner look-alike — no one she knows, though she racks her brain). She doesn’t ignore pop culture, either, touching on everything from The Lovely Bones to the hugely popular Left Behind series. And what she finds is that heaven, to all cultures and religions, means hope. No matter how bad things are in this world, they will get better in the next one.
But once she has finished reporting and researching, Miller’s book loses its hard journalistic edge and becomes something else: a memoir. Her own qualms about faith have danced around the edges of the story, but finally they come front and center. What Miller ultimately concludes may surprise you. It certainly surprised her. A?