The subject of the top-selling Christian book The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven has recanted his story about life after death, prompting bookstores to pull it from their shelves, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.
"I did not die. I did not go to Heaven," Alex Malarkey said in a statement published on the Christian site Pulpit and Pen. "I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible."
Malarkey and his father, Kevin Malarkey, wrote the book, which was published in 2010. According to Publishers Weekly, 112,386 hardcover copies of the book were sold that year alone.
"It gives us insight into a whole realm of reality that we don't think much about," Tyndale House Publishers chief Mark Taylor said following its release. Both Tyndale and the Christian retailer Lifeway Books announced on Thursday that they would stop selling the book following Alex Malarkey's statement.
The story was promoted at the time as an account of Malarkey's encounter with "angels that took him through the gates of heaven" after a 2006 car accident left the boy in a coma. He was 6 years old at the time of the accident, and was paralyzed as a result of his injuries.
One passage from the book describes Malarkey telling his mother, Beth Malarkey, about his meeting "with Jesus" in the moments after the accident.
"My body, down under me, was not breathing," he tells her. "But Jesus said, 'You shouldn't worry. You are going to breathe again.'"
"Did He say when?" she asks, to which the boy replies, "No, He didn't."
The book, along with other works like Colton Burpo's Heaven Is For Real, was part of an evangelical genre called "heavenly tourism," which has been criticized for its purported descriptions of the Christian afterlife.
"No true evangelical ought to be tempted to give such tales any credence whatsoever, no matter how popular they become," Grace To You's Phil Johnson wrote in 2012. "One major, obvious problem is that these books don't even agree with one another. They give contradictory descriptions of heaven and thus cannot possibly have any cumulative long-term effect other than the sowing of confusion and doubt."
According to Pulpit and Pen, Beth Malarkey has also criticized the book, and contacted Taylor late last year saying her son opposed the book's publication. She had previously denounced the book in a blog post last April.
"Alex is the ONLY one who has endured not only a horrific set of injuries, but having his journey capitalized on," she wrote. "His struggles are NOT past tense nor is the 'story.' The ones making money from the book are NOT the ones staying up through the night, struggling for their breath, or were they the ones at six years old, waking up unable to move or breathe and in a strange place after last remember seeing a car coming right at the car he was riding in. What I have walked through with Alex over the past nine years has nearly broken me personally and spiritually."