THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN is a wonderfully moving fable that addresses the meaning of life, and life after death, in the poignant way that made TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE such an astonishing book. The protagonist is an elderly amusement park maintenance worker named Eddie who, while operating a ride called the 'Free Fall', dies while trying to save a young girl who gets in the way of a falling cart that hurtles to earth. Eddie goes to heaven, where he meets five people who were unexpectedly instrumental in some way in his life. While each guide takes him through heaven, Eddie learns a little bit more about what his time on earth meant, what he was supposed to have learned, and what his true purpose on earth was. Throughout there are dramatic flashbacks where we see scenes from his troubled childhood, his years in the army in the Philippines jungle, and with his first and only love, his wife Marguerite. THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN is the perfect follow up to TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE. Its compellingly affecting themes and lyrical telling will fascinate Mitch Albom's huge readership.
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