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Part melodrama and part parable, Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven weaves together three stories, all told about the same man: 83-year-old Eddie, the head maintenance person at Ruby Point Amusement Park. As the novel opens, readers are told that Eddie, unsuspecting, is only minutes away from death as he goes about his typical business at the park. Albom then traces Eddie's world through his tragic final moments, his funeral, and the ensuing days as friends clean out his apartment and adjust to life without him. In alternating sections, Albom flashes back to Eddie's birthdays, telling his life story as a kind of progress report over candles and cake each year. And in the third and last thread of the novel, Albom follows Eddie into heaven where the maintenance man sequentially encounters five pivotal figures from his life (a la A Christmas Carol). Each person has been waiting for him in heaven, and, as Albom reveals, each life (and death) was woven into Eddie's own in ways he never suspected. Each soul has a story to tell, a secret to reveal, and a lesson to share. Through them Eddie understands the meaning of his own life even as his arrival brings closure to theirs.
Albom takes a big risk with the novel; such a story can easily veer into the saccharine and preachy, and this one does in moments. But, for the most part, Albom's telling remains poignant and is occasionally profound. Even with its flaws, The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a small, pure, and simple book that will find good company on a shelf next to It's A Wonderful Life. --Patrick O'Kelley
| AUTHOR: || Mitch Albom |
| CATEGORY: || Book |
| MANUFACTURER: || Hyperion |
| ISBN: || 0786868716 |
| TYPE: || Accident victims, Amusement parks, Amusement rides, Fiction, Fiction - General, Future life, General, Popular American Fiction, Psychological, Fiction / General, Reading Group Guide |
| MEDIA: || Hardcover |
| # OF MEDIA: || 1 |
Customer Review of The Five People You Meet in Heaven
Compelling Parable about Our Connections to One Another
The title and book concept have intrigued me since I first heard about the book. I don't know any religions that describe the experience in Heaven as beginning by meeting five people from your past life, so I took the book to be a parable rather than a literal attempt to describe Heavenly life. I was quite pleased (for the most part) with what I found. I recommend this book to anyone who will not feel like their religion is being cast in doubt by the book's premise.
Many self-help gurus encourage us to imagine our funeral service and what would be said about us. I think there's a lot of merit to that concept. Mr. Albom has added another important element to that concept: What were the unintended effects that others had on our lives and we on theirs? Cast in that light, even the most mundane life is suddenly filled with drama and greater significance. I hope Mr. Albom will consider writing a self-help book that allows us to think through the lessons of this book for our own lives.
To describe what happens in Heaven in the book would be to spoil the book for you . . . so I won't. I found the book constantly surprising and interesting, and a quick read. One of the underlying themes of the book is the need to be more accepting of one another . . . and the consequences of our actions. In that regard, I thought the story was weak only in developing the resolution of his relationship with one of his parents. Other than that flaw, I would have enthusiastically graded the book at five stars.
Let me quote the book's intriguing opening paragraph to give you a flavor of why you may want to read this book:
"This is a story about a man named Eddie and it begins at the end, with Eddie dying in the sun. It might seem strange to start a story with an ending. But all endings are also beginnings. We just don't know it at the time."
I think that's the best opening for a book that I have read in many years. Much of the rest of the writing is just as good.
As I finished the book, I began to think about how my "failures" may have actually helped others to "successes." That was a new thought for me, and one that will make me act quite differently in the future. That was a great gift to receive from reading a single story.
strong modern day parable
Eddie had worked for years at maintenance at Ruby Pier Amusement Park insuring the rides were safe for patrons. Though he did his job meticulously and everyone kind of knew Eddie, adults never took him seriously. Children seem to like him but even Eddie when he became an octogenarian reflecting back on his life felt he achieved zero. Eddie recently died trying to save a little girl.
Eddie regains consciousness in heaven. Five people, one at a time, shows him the positive impact of his life on others. Though in terms of major impact, his deeds may seem small, Eddie begins to understand the essence of God's gift of life to mankind. Humanity consists of a vast series of interconnecting networks that mesh the lives of everyone. No matter how minute, that iota of caring impacts people even those outside your sphere and Eddie clearly cared.
This is a strong modern day parable that reminds readers that everyone counts even Eleanor Rigby. Using a seemingly nonentity to bring his message across, Mitch Albom paints a simply stupendous story that no person is left behind as we live as an interconnected and overlapping links on this planet. Everybody has plenty to offer and should be encouraged to do so.
Inspiring, comforting, a joy to read.
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