Life Is Beautiful

Life is beautiful book coverIf you asked her, Sarah Johnson would probably say her life changed in an instant.

It happened in August of 2008 when, on a mission trip to Guatemala with her family, she survived a plane crash. Sadly, her father and brother didn’t, and her mother, who also survived, was severely burned and had to endure months of recovery in the hospital.

The story of that plane crash – as well her life before and after – are the subject of Sarah’s new book, Life Is Beautiful: How a Lost Girl Became a True, Confident Child of God.

Sarah did not live an easy life. Growing up in Amery, WI, she often felt isolated, living in an emotionally vacant family. To make matters worse, when she was 17 years old, she came to find out her father was a meth addict. Meantime, her mom showed her and her brother love but very little else.

By the time she was 19 years old in 2008, Sarah was depressed, drank heavily on a daily basis, and failed out of the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The trip to Guatemala was going to be a starting-over point for her. After all, her father had quit meth cold turkey the prior year and turned his life around. Sarah wanted to do the same.

But then, the small Cessna Caravan’s engine blew and the plane crashed, leaving 11 of the 14 passengers dead.

Investigators work at the scene of a plane crash in Cabanas, Guatemala, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008.  (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Investigators work at the scene of a plane crash in Cabanas, Guatemala, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Sarah was the only person to walk out of that plane with no physical injuries. “Right then, I knew at some point I’d need to share my story,” she says when we spoke with her on the phone from her home in Nowthen, MN.

“The crash triggered a life change in me, but I had to make the choice to get through it. And I did.”

It wasn’t easy. Her mom spent months at the Hennepin County Medical Center after the crash, and Sarah had to deal with “the business of death” by herself.

In the book, you learn she was still depressed, still drinking too much and still feeling very much alone. It wasn’t until she started seeing a therapist that she began working on herself and turning her life around.

Sarah also embraced the spiritual relationship with a higher power that she had previously established while at college. In time, she was able to accept that this horrible, terrible tragedy did happen to her and that it is OK to not only accept it, but also accept everything in her life that led up to it.

Four years after the crash, in 2012, she began writing her book. She was still in therapy and writing was a part of that process.

The book, however, isn’t only about the crash. It’s about her personal struggles with her parents and herself.

“Everyone has skeletons,” says Sarah. “I had plenty. But I want everyone to know that they can make it through.”

Since the crash, Sarah received her BA in social work from St. Catherine University, where, in Ocober, 2015, she also will get her Master Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.

She also is happily married and is the mother to two young children.

Sarah, Adam and their two children.

Sarah, Adam and their two children.

Sarah suffered through an event that allowed her to wake up and evaluate life. From that event, she learned much, including that adversity builds hope and that after all is said and done, life is, in fact, beautiful.


Book Launch Party!

Join Sarah and her family at her book launch party on Friday, August 21 at FIVE Event Center, 2917 Bryant Ave. S. in Minneapolis.

  • Books will be available for purchase and Sarah will be signing books from 6:00 pm until 8:00 pm
  • Cocktails and appetizers will be available
  • Open to the public!

For more information on Sarah and Life Is Beautiful, please check out

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