Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

The Five People You Meet in Heaven – by Mitch Albom

Eddie's 83rd birthday began like most days, he went to work as usual. Alone with no family and no friends Eddie's whole life is Ruby Pier, as it has been since his youth. Yet a freak accident on one of the rides causes Eddie to risk his life trying to save a little girl. In his final moments he feels two small hands.

When Eddie awakes he finds Heaven is not the Garden of Eden as promised in the Bible. Instead he has to meet with five people who have helped shaped his life. Some he knows, some are strangers, but they all have wisdom to impart. As Eddie visits each of these people's chosen Heaven he slowly begins to understand his life on earth and how it ended.

Not everyone is comfortable with death and the thought of what comes after. I admit to being one of those people who seem to think about death and am interested in thoughts and cultural reactions to death. I remember writing a paper at university about death using both anthropological and archaeological examples of how people deal with death. I also remember my tutor commenting that the paper was so well researched and explored that they felt I had an unhealthy obsession with the topic! So for me, this book was right up my street.

There are so many different ideas about what happens after you die from those that believe there is no life after death, to various ideas about heaven and finally reincarnation. Life after death can be a really good topic for an author as the ideas they can explore are many and varied. Yet it can also be fraught with difficulties. It can be too easy to write a life after death story which doesn't challenge the read and is just a story that happens to be set in an afterlife rather than another country or on another planet. Sometimes authors can get too caught up in the philosophical and forget the storyline altogether. Albom is guilty of neither of these. The book is extremely readable, has a clear story but it manages to be thought provoking.

This is an excellent book to read if you have recently lost a loved one. It makes you realise that their life will have touched so many others, some of which you'll know about and others that you won't. It made me realise that everything has a purpose, and that even the tiniest actions have lasting effect. It also left me with the hope that no life is a wasted life and that even if you feel you don't understand your life and why things happen that it will all eventually become clear to you. It could be a wonderful source of discussion which might help you through your grief.

Albom doesn't push 'God' too much in the book, which as an atheist I was grateful for. Instead the story hangs on Eddie and the five people he meets and the reader is not required to embrace Christian ideology. Don't get me wrong, there are references made to God from time to time, but he is not a central character by any means.

There are many themes which Albom explores in this book other than life, death and fate. Family, war, work, prejudice, and love are all explored along with the concepts of punishment and redemption. As you reach the end of the book you, like Eddie, are beginning to understand why many of the aspects of his life ended up the way they did. You also find out whether or not Eddie managed to save the girl, a fact he needs to know if he is to gain ultimate peace.
This book is not meant as a light hearted holiday read and shouldn't be relegated to that pile of books. Instead you should make the time for it and be prepared to read something that will challenge you as much as it entertains you. It will certainly draw you in, I almost got off at the wrong stop when I was reading this because I was so engrossed! I would definitely recommend this to anyone who feels ready to explore the themes of this book.

*4 stars*

No comments: