Sunday, February 26, 2006

Five People you meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom



By Christina VanGinkel

From the author of Tuesdays with Morrie, comes a book that for me was much less, than I thought it was going to be, and ultimately much more than I could have hoped. Without trying to sound prophetic, I had all different ideas of what this little book was going to be about. I figured it would be some quick-witted joke about the afterlife, or otherwise it would be overly religious with many telltale quotes from the bible preceding each chapter. It was neither of these, yet after reading it, I walked away not wanting to let the book go. If you approach this book with an open mind, you will at least obtain the pleasure of reading a good story, one put together with imagination, with enough grief to make you think, enough joy to make you smile, and enough questions to make you wonder.

It is a short book, at 208 pages, and tells the story of Eddie, who on his birthday, his 83rd birthday at that, is killed in a tragic accident involving a young girl at the carnival he has worked at a good portion of his life. Before working at the carnival though, as an all around fix it man, he was in the war, coming home wounded in more ways than just physically, as so many soldiers truly do. Though the book begins with his death, you are taken on an exploration of his days as a young man and given a glimpse of how his life unfolded, and in his eyes, unfolded in an uninspiring, unaffecting way. It unfolds to show you love, and love taken away, at least as far as he was concerned.

What he does not know, but the author has a firm grasp on in his ideals for the story, is that when you die, instead of being spirited to heaven or to hell on some golden reined chariot, you are 'rewarded' by five people who have passed before you. Their task is to help you understand just what your life has meant to those around you, and in doing so; they hope to help you open your eyes, and soul, to just what your life truly meant. Each of the five people he meets in his 'heaven' has a lesson to teach him, before he can find peace, if there is such a thing.

This book at first glance seems almost too slight to express such a profound meaning to the reader, but what I found surprising, is that Mr. Albom is capable of expressing much in just a few words. He writes tight and clean, and in the end, his writing is a joy to read, both for the easy read itself, and from whatever you are able to take away from the book to use as a lesson in your own life, and there are lessons to be learned, if you are willing to listen.

I actually picked up the book on a recommendation from a friend, as I was having a hard time dealing with the passing of my brother, even though it had been some years since his death. The anniversary of the day he had passed was approaching though, and each year on the anniversary, it seems like I look for any book that might open my eyes to the possibility that there is something after death. This book was a bit off from the sort I might usually pick up, and with it being total fiction, some might even wonder why I would put stock into anything in it. However, as it was a recommended read from the friend I mentioned, after reading it, I knew exactly why he had told me to read it. It is justification that I am not the only one who wonders what is out there. If you wonder, if you dream, then this might be the book to at least let you know that you are not the only one who thinks about life's big 'what ifs'! While this book may not be, the heaven so many of us might wish for, it is not such a bad supposition of what the afterlife might be. If you are looking for book that will leave you wanting the story to continue, even after you turn the last page, then pick up this book the next time you want a good read.

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