Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

This charming little book (more of a novella, really) was published in 2006 and caught my eye because the writer recently wrote a sequel. It tells the story of Eddie, an 83-year-old amusement park worker, and his experience in heaven after he is killed in a freak accident.

I usually stay away from books about death and dying but I thought I’d take a chance on this one, and I’m glad I did. It’s message is hopeful and lovely, and Eddie is charmingly and poignantly written.

Eddie is the kind of guy you might come across in any number of situations. He’s the old man who’s been around forever – kind of curmudgeonly, a little sad, a little wistful for bygone days, and at the core a very decent person. He has worked at Ruby Pier, a seaside amusement park, for decades, following in his father’s footsteps. He is in charge of maintenance, which, although not obvious at first, is a perfect fit because Eddie is a protector. He keeps the rides safe so people don’t get hurt.

Eddie is killed when he tries to save a little girl from getting crushed by one of the rides. He goes to heaven, where he meets, one-by-one, five people whose lives were meaningfully linked to his. Each teaches him a gentle lesson about topics like forgiveness, the nature of love, and Eddie’s purpose in life – deep subjects handled in uniquely imaginative ways.

Interspersed with Eddie’s experience in heaven are memories from his birthdays across the span of his life. Through these, we learn about his childhood, adolescence, married life and old age. It’s an effective technique for covering someone’s personal history efficiently. In the wrong hands, it could lead to shallow character development, but Mr. Albom handles it masterfully. His writing style is spare but also incredibly moving. It’s a true gift.

It should be no surprise that I highly recommend this book. And I give it 3 out of 5 tears on the Cry-O-Meter. *sniff*

This is the first book I’ve read by Mitch Albom and I’d like to read more. What do you recommend? (Besides Tuesdays with Morrie – that hits too close to home.)

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