“There Are No Alligators in Heaven!” Scores 4-star Review from Portland Books

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Portland Books Editor-in-Chief Whitney Smyth calls the remarkable story of a family wrestling with cystic fibrosis, “a book that manages to be many things: a heartfelt biography … a self-help parenting guide … and most importantly, a celebration of life.”

New publication shares a family's perspectives on surviving the unrelenting savagery of cystic fibrosis

A books that offers hope, strength, and uplifting stories, against the backdrop of a very harsh reality.

Portland Book Review (PBR) recently published its 4-star review on “There Are No Alligators in Heaven!” – a newly released publication that details a family’s perspectives on surviving the unrelenting savagery of cystic fibrosis. Writing on behalf of PBR, Editor-in-Chief Whitney Smyth considers the work “inspiring.” She identifies the heroine Jennifer Hale, “diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of two” (in 1974), and Jennifer's story is one of optimism, courage, and hope that inspires readers to find joy in life and never to give up the fight – whatever the battle happens to be.

Smyth explains that “There Are No Alligators in Heaven!” is Jennifer’s “biography as told through her writings as well as a detailed series of interviews with her parents.” Structurally, the book blends the different perspectives well and is divided into “clear sections that are easy to navigate ... easy to read,” according to Smyth. Click here to see the complete PBR review.

Jennifer’s parents – Donna and Evan Michael Codell – initiated the book project in Fall 2016 as a tribute to Jennifer, who lived for 43 years at a time when the average age of cystic fibrosis victims was just 15 years. According to PBR’s Smyth, the parents lead readers “through Jennifer’s whole life, from birth to death, and a little beyond. They paint a picture of a normal family, refusing to whitewash their experience to leave out the darker times and struggles, the personality clashes, or the various illnesses and complications.”

One such illness that “There Are No Alligators in Heaven!” addresses is that of Jennifer’s father and the book’s co-author Evan Michael Codell. Evan had been battling Stage 4 lung cancer since it was diagnosed in 2012, and during book development his health was in evident decline. The final interview with Evan for the book occurred on Monday, December 12, 2016. Two days later, on Wednesday, December 14, Evan passed away.

This loss, coupled with Jennifer’s death in December 2015, led Portland Book’s reviewer Smyth to the conclusion: “This is not a biography with a happy ending, but even so, it is one that manages to be inspiring and is well worth the read.”

Donna Codell – Jennifer’s mother and Evan’s wife – is the surviving author, and she hopes that “There Are No Alligators in Heaven!” finds a broad audience. She wants people to get to know Jennifer – “someone that you’d love to be around” – and she also believes that the book will help others “by offering hope, strength, and uplifting stories, against the backdrop of a very harsh reality.”

“There Are No Alligators in Heaven!” is available in print format ($14.95) from Amazon, Powell’s, other online booksellers, and by order from independent bookstores. A Kindle version ($6.99) is also available from Amazon.

“There Are No Alligators in Heaven!” is published by Starshine Galaxy Foundation – a non-profit organization dedicated to the publication of stories by and about children who have passed away.

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Rod Mebane
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