CAROL STREAM, Ill. — A now 20-year-old Alex Malarkey, who in 2015 publicly disavowed the best-selling story “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven”—a book that claims he died and went to Heaven—is suing his publisher over the matter. Malarkey says that the tale was fabricated by his father, and is “highly offensive” to him because it “is contrary to the Bible and his faith.” He is seeking damages and a complete disassociation from the book.
“Because Tyndale House never spoke directly with Alex regarding whether Alex was an author of the book and whether the information contained in the book was true, Tyndale House acted at least recklessly in publishing the book,’” the lawsuit asserts.
As previously reported, Malarkey had been involved in a car accident at the age of six, and was in a coma for two months. “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven”, published in 2010, claims that Malarkey died and went to Heaven, having encounters with angels and ultimately meeting Jesus.
The book reached bestseller status, selling over a million copies, and a documentary was also released about Malarkey’s story, which included interviews with Alex and his parents, Beth and Kevin. Christian reviewers gave the story high marks, and it even won an award from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association.
The Malarkeys divorced, and in 2014, Alex’ mother wrote in a blog post that the account was not true, and that she was concerned that no one seemed to be questioning it.
“It is both puzzling and painful to watch the book ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ not only continue to sell, but to continue, for the most part, to not be questioned,” she wrote in a post entitled “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven…Not Quite.”
“Alex’s name and identity are being used against his wishes (I have spoken before and posted about it that Alex has tried to publicly speak out against the book), on something that he is opposed to and knows to be in error according to the Bible,” she stated.
The following year, Alex Malarkey wrote an open letter acknowledging that he did not die in the accident. He said that he claimed he did because he thought it would put him in the spotlight.
“I did not die. I did not go to Heaven,” he stated succinctly. “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,” Malarkey continued. “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.”
Tyndale House consequently pulled the book and said in a statement that it was “saddened to learn [Malarkey is] now saying that he made up the story of dying and going to Heaven.”
Now, Malarkey has filed suit against Tyndale House, and wants to be completely disassociated from the publication. Through his attorneys, he contends that his father solely wrote the book and that he never had a part in it, being 12 at the time, and never asked for his name to be on it.
Malarkey also states that he has never received any payments despite having his name on the book, since his father signed the contract. He says that he and his mother are nearly homeless.
“Alex Malarkey did not write the book or any portion of it,” the lawsuit reads. “Alex did not consent to be identified as the author of the book. … Tyndale House never spoke directly to Alex to confirm whether or not he was an author of the book and whether or not he consented to having material about his private life published.”
“Tyndale placed Alex, a Christian, in the highly offensive position of having to lie and claim that the false story regarding what he had experienced while he was in a coma was true, or else having to fight back against Tyndale House, its massive publishing operation, and promotional campaign to let the truth be known,” it contends.
The suit seeks both punitive and compensatory damages, as well as an injunction ordering Tyndale to disassociate Malarkey from the book.
Tyndale has denied any wrongdoing, and said that it thought from Malarkey’s 2015 statement that it was Alex who had made up the story.
“Despite the claims in Alex Malarkey’s lawsuit, Tyndale House paid all royalties that were due under the terms of our contract on his book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,” it said in a statement. “Tyndale took the book out of print in 2015 when Alex said that he had fabricated the entire story. Any books still available from online vendors are from third party sellers.”
As previously reported, Phil Johnson of Grace to You wrote in a blog post in January 2015 that Tyndale House, led by President Mark Taylor, had been notified two years prior that the book was fictional. He explained that he has correspondence between Malarkey’s mother and Tyndale within his possession, and as Malarkey’s cries were not heard, he wrote himself to ask Tyndale why she was seemingly being written off.
“I’m curious about what rationale Tyndale’s legal department has for dismissing the concerns that have been raised by Beth Malarkey, who says that the story told in ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven’ is filled with exaggerations and untruths,” Johnson’s email, sent on June 3, 2014, read in part.
Malarkey’s attorneys with the Gibbs Law Firm tell Christian News Network that Alex took too much blame in 2015 with his statement, as his father wrote the book and he was awkwardly coerced into being a part of the documentary.