All We Know of Heaven
by Jacquelyn Mitchard
reviewed by Sophia Cotman
Jacquelyn Mitchard’s contemporary novel, All We Know of Heaven, follows the story of two best friends, Bridget Flannery and Maureen O’Malley, who undergo a horrific car accident on their way to cheerleading practice. After learning about the accident, the readers learn that one of the girls has died and the other is battered beyond recognition. After learning this, the friends and family, of both Bridget and Maureen, begin to mourn one’s loss and pray for the other’s recovery. Soon thereafter, the doctors realize they have made a mistake due to the physical similarities of both girls, and the girl who was thought to be dead is the one who survived. After hearing the news, both families are dismayed and can not believe what has happened. Chaos erupts in the town of Bigelow, Minnesota. Eventually, the mayhem ceases, and Maureen is on her way to a happy and healthy recovery. Throughout the rest of the novel, the readers are inspired with hope as they watch the impossible become possible, through Maureen’s rehabilitation.
As soon as the readers learn about the accident, Mitchard switches between an omniscient narrator and the thoughts of Maureen O’Malley to help the readers develop a deeper understanding of the story. Using this type of narrative helps the readers develop empathy for Maureen by emphasizing the feelings of regret and guilt that she faces because of surviving. Furthermore, when Maureen is in a coma, Mitchard uses poetry to convey to the readers how Maureen is feeling and what she is observing. Empathizing with Maureen, the readers begin to have a deeper understanding of her feelings and how challenging her recovery truly is. For instance, when her friend, Danny, is sitting by her side in the hospital, as she is asleep, she mumbles to herself, “Moor-eee. Mo-ruh. Mo-ruh-un. She was…” (Mitchard 63). At this point, nobody is aware that Bridget is actually Maureen, and the readers begin to realize the mistake the doctors have made. When the readers hear this, they begin to empathize with Maureen and her frustrations about being misunderstood.
Additionally, Mitchard uses a variety of figurative language to help the readers become aware of her hopeful and intense tone. The author frequently uses onomatopoeia to demonstrate Maureen's needs and frustrations with her recovery. The use of onomatopoeia helps the author illustrate to the readers the challenges of recovering from a brain injury. Whenever Mitchard would use any type of figurative language, I was left in dismay at each passage. I would sit and wonder how anyone or anything could get through something as challenging as this type of injury. Throughout the novel, I was awestruck at the inspiring writing and how satisfied I was by the author’s tone. As an avid lover of inspiring stories, I would truly recommend this novel to anyone who is feeling down or looking for a way to defeat the impossible. Jacquelyn Mitchard’s novel, All We Know of Heaven, made me rethink the way that I live my life and taught me many important life lessons; such as never giving up or never taking things for granted. The lessons in this novel fly off the page into your own life, and I suggest that anyone looking for a page-turning, thought-provoking novel, should consider reading All We Know of Heaven, by Jacquelyn Mitchard.