So you’ve read the Da Vinci Code …what’s next? Trendy readers across the country are picking up the latest story by Mitch Albom. In the wake of the success of his first novel, “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Albom’s latest novel mirrors the first in its deep sentiment, moral implications and comforting tone. “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” offers its readers a glimpse into an uncharted utopia, with the promise of both comfort and closure.
Albom’s afterlife is crafted in a way that transcends religious textbooks or preached sermons. Heaven offers the gift that is more precious than anyone could hope for – answers.
“No story sits by itself. Sometimes stories meet at corners, and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river,” the author theorizes. The story he tells is one of an aging war veteran named Eddie. Plagued by boredom and loneliness, this amusement park mechanic has spent much of his life parading Ruby Pier. The Ferris wheel’s cyclic monotony mocks the ennui of Eddie’s own life – tedium he escapes only by delving into memories of his past.
On a day much like every other, Eddie is called to fix a malfunctioning ride. But as he approaches the scene, the cable snaps, and a metal cart plummets through the air toward the crowd below. Impulsively, Eddie dashes to save a young girl beneath the falling ride.
“He felt two hands in his own, two small hands. A stunning impact. A blinding flash of light. And then, nothing,” he writes.
Eddie awakens on a mystical ride unlike any at Ruby Pier. He meets five different people in heaven, each helping to explain the significance of his life on earth. Whether they be loved ones or strangers, these individuals share a common link in Eddie’s story, influencing and shaping his life in dramatic ways. Person by person and piece by piece, Eddie weaves together the story of his life. Yet the abrupt uncertainty surrounding his death clouds his eternal tranquility. Was his sacrifice a failure, or did he in fact save the young girl for whom he lost his life?
“The Five People You Meet in Heaven” is an enjoyable novel, with a hopeful and reassuring message. Albom once again displays his ease for storytelling, leaving the reader with a warm and comforting view of death. Like “Tuesdays with Morrie,” this novel emphasizes the deep significance of personal relationships and their undeniable influence on our life’s course.
Albom boldly approaches both troubled family relationships and the pristine perfection of true love. He captures the perpetuity of these feelings – “Lost love is still love … Memory becomes your partner. You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.”
“The Five People You Meet in Heaven” paints a vivid picture of eternity that necessitates personal reflection. Albom’s lighthearted story, fantastic imagination and refreshing tone leave the reader with a most powerful message – “Life has to end. Love doesn’t.”
This article appeared in the September 13, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.