Title: The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Author: Mitch Albom
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Available: Barnes and Noble
From the Publisher: From the author of the phenomenal #1 New York Times bestseller Tuesdays with Morrie, a novel that explores the unexpected connections of our lives, and the idea that heaven is more than a place; it's an answer.
Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It's a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie's five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his "meaningless" life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: "Why was I here?"
The theme, “all endings are also beginnings,” has never been more profoundly expressed than in Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.” Albom is known to have written stories that provide inspiration while looking back on life. This novel, inspired by his own Uncle Eddie, is no different. It brings forth a range of emotions from anticipation, apprehensiveness, excitement, joy, and sadness as it tells the story building up to main character Eddie’s death and then the five people he encounters in heaven. We meet Eddie at the end of his life with the book introducing building up to his death as he tries to save a little girl from an accident at an amusement park. His days working at Ruby Pier are a full routine of work, loneliness, and regret. His tragic death on his 83rd birthday seems full of irony, but the irony is yet to be disclosed until all the pieces of the puzzle become clear. Most books build someone’s life as it eventually progresses to death, whereas this one is different in that it progresses backwards from his death to look back on his journey. We often look to Heaven as a reprieve meant for lush relaxation away from life’s troubles, but in Albom’s Heaven it is a time for reflection and solving a mystery. The book includes numerous quotes, which stick out, and a particular quote, which introduces the story, is especially monumental, “There are no random acts. We are all connected. Good comes from it.”
As soon as he leaves Earth he is introduced to people who are there to make sense of his time spent living. Each of these individuals has some connection to Eddie during his time on Earth although some he did not directly interact with. They are loved ones and distant strangers, but all played an important part. Albom uses the introduction of these five characters to reflect back on Eddie’s life while also integrating them to the progression of his life with each birthday that he experiences. We meet the Blue Man who met his death early in avoiding hitting Eddie with a car, a Captain whom Eddie served under during his time in World War II, his estranged father via an introduction by the legendary Ruby, and a couple of others. It seems that despite Eddie’s whole life trying to escape Ruby Pier and all the excitement that encompasses an amusement park all elements continued to lead him back to it despite his desire to spread his wings and separate himself from it. Sometimes that is true of life though. There is that one piece someone feels like they need to get away from when really it is that very element which brings all the meaning in their life together.
Not everyone he meets is expected, but each person shines a light on an aspect of Eddie’s life that may not have made as much sense before and teaches him a lesson. This story shows that every trip we take in life, every person we meet, every hardship we survive, and every experience we live through meaning. Every end leads to some other beginning. We cannot escape even the small moments. And what we may not see in front of us has greater value than we can imagine. My favorite closing quote was, “That each life affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories but the stories are all one.”