If the novel ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ had delighted you, Mitch Albom’s ‘The Five People You Meet In Heaven’ transcends all expectations! The author can well be considered the master of enchanting fables that stir those feelings buried deep and brings them to the surface. Feelings that had been always there but never saw the light of the day, never unacknowledged.
The story brings about a breeze of a new world, unraveling the mysteries of life. A world brought on only through death.
This is where the book begins, at the end. With 30 minutes to his death, the protagonist, Eddie goes about his routine at the amusement park where he worked, unaware of his imminent end. He had spent all his life within the railings of the Ruby Pier, except when he was at war. The war, the memories of which he carried like an albatross around his neck. A man with sand in his shoes, living in a world of mechanical laughter, he had embraced hopelessness as a way of life, never once realizing the gravity of his existence.
With his last breath, Eddie finds himself in a new world. Heaven? Well, not yet his. As he meets the five people who had changed the course of his life, he is awakened to his own worth. He realizes the significance of the series of events that formed his life, which had not been evident to him when he was alive.
He learns about the interrelationship of all lives, about sacrifice, the everlasting value of love, the poison-ness of lingering anger and the consequences of regret. The author moves between the past and the present, by weaving Eddie’s birthdays throughout the story. The sweet highs and stifling lows of Eddie’s life-long romance with his wife, Marguerite, are truly overwhelming. The deafening silence between the father and son would tear at the heart of many a reader. Albom successfully layers Eddie with shades of vulnerability, naiveté, joy, pain and pride, a departure from the stereotypical old man.
As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, Eddie frantically seeks redemption in the still-unknown last act of his life: A laudable success? A devastating failure? The answer, which comes from the most unlikely of sources, is as inspirational as a glimpse of paradise itself.
The author has sculpted a beautiful work of art about how death not just wipes out one life, but also alters another. We spend all are lives trying to give meaning to our existence, justifying it. Of how it lends clarity to the blurred realities of life. One never thought the answers that one so desperately sought during his life, would be laid out before him when he was no longer alive. Intrinsically ironical!
This is the heaven as Mitch Albom imagines it and I cannot help but believe it. I wonder who my five people would be…