Reviewed by A.R.K. Watson

  • Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Themes: Death, Injury, Health, First Responders, Essential Workers, Volunteers, Kindness, Charity, Courage, Grief, Recovery, Prayer, Infant Death
  • Year Published: 2020
  • Audience: Adult
  • Author’s Worldview: Catholic

Andrea Jo Rodgers has been volunteering as a first responder for over thirty years. In this third collection of stories collected from her many experiences of real-life emergencies, Rodgers explores the theme of unexpected aid. Though a skeptic might discount one or two of these ‘miracles’ and ‘convenient coincidences,’ it is hard for even the most hardened cynic to keep that stance for long as they are confronted with the sheer volume of ‘convenient coincidences’ that Rodgers encounters. Especially in 2020, we need to be reminded that the real miracles in life are found in the normal acts of kindness people show one another. Sometimes our actions seem too small to matter, but Help from Heaven reminds us that such small actions can save a life.

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Having not read one of Rodger’s collections of true stories from her work as a first responder, I had expected the book to have a Chicken-Soup-For-The-Soul vibe. I thought that the stories would be full of sweet feeling and extraordinary miracles that bamboozle the mind. Instead I found a collection of ‘miracles’ that break no rules of physics at all. Some of the stories even end in the patient’s death. But through all of them, there are people who help each other. Most of the help from Heaven comes through the normal kindnesses of neighbors, friends, family and the volunteers of Pine Cove’s first responders. These stories brutally confront the pains and beauties of life. The hope they give is no shallow thing.

One story that was particularly difficult involved the death of a little girl. Though Rodgers and her entire team are shaken by their inability to save the child’s life before she goes brain-dead, they do manage to restart her heart. The parents somehow manage to overcome their grief and even donate their infant’s heart to save another child. Years later, Rodgers runs into the mother at a public library and sees that God blessed them with another baby. This was probably the darkest story in the collection for me, but each story is bound to affect readers in different ways according to their personal experiences. Regardless, Rodgers’ stories are a hard reminder that though God does not promise us that we will never suffer, he does promise us that we will not go through that suffering alone.

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Much of my cynical approach to this book is no doubt from the many tragedies of living through 2020. Any Christian of any denomination in need of something to bolster their faith, hope and love will find this book inspiring. Because of the real-life emergencies involved I would caution against showing this book to younger readers though Rodgers never gets gory or vulgar. Those considering entering work in the medical field would find this an encouraging look into the beauties and stresses of that work life. If you are struggling with grief or belief that God does intend good things for you this book may just be the comfort you need.