The Five People You Meet in Heaven

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9781401397517: The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It's a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie's five people revisit, their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his "meaningless" life and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: "What was I here"

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Review:

Part melodrama and part parable, Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet in Heaven weaves together three stories, all told about the same man: 83-year-old Eddie, the head maintenance person at Ruby Point Amusement Park. As the novel opens, readers are told that Eddie, unsuspecting, is only minutes away from death as he goes about his typical business at the park. Albom then traces Eddie's world through his tragic final moments, his funeral, and the ensuing days as friends clean out his apartment and adjust to life without him. In alternating sections, Albom flashes back to Eddie's birthdays, telling his life story as a kind of progress report over candles and cake each year. And in the third and last thread of the novel, Albom follows Eddie into heaven where the maintenance man sequentially encounters five pivotal figures from his life (a la A Christmas Carol). Each person has been waiting for him in heaven, and, as Albom reveals, each life (and death) was woven into Eddie's own in ways he never suspected. Each soul has a story to tell, a secret to reveal, and a lesson to share. Through them Eddie understands the meaning of his own life even as his arrival brings closure to theirs.

Albom takes a big risk with the novel; such a story can easily veer into the saccharine and preachy, and this one does in moments. But, for the most part, Albom's telling remains poignant and is occasionally profound. Even with its flaws, The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a small, pure, and simple book that will find good company on a shelf next to It's A Wonderful Life. --Patrick O'Kelley

About the Author:

Mitch Albom is the author of nine books. His first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven , is the most successful U.S. hardback first novel ever and has to date sold over 8 million copies worldwide. Tuesdays With Morrie, (1997) his chronicle of time spent with a beloved but dying college professor, spent four years on the New York Times bestseller list and is now the most successful memoir ever published. Both books were eventually turned into celebrated TV films. The critically acclaimed Five People You Meet in Heaven aired on ABC in winter, 2004. Oprah Winfrey produced the film version of Tuesdays With Morrie in December 1999; starring Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria. The film garnered four Emmy awards, including best TV film, director, actor and supporting actor. An award-winning journalist and radio host, Albom wrote the screenplay for The Five People You Meet in Heaven, and is an established playwright, having authored numerous pieces for the theater, including the off-Broadway version of Tuesdays With Morrie (co-written with Jeffrey Hatcher) which has seen more than 40 productions nationwide, and several recent comedies which have been produced and performed in venues across the country. Albom has founded three charities in the metropolitan Detroit area: "The Dream Fund," established in 1989, allows disadvantaged children to become involved with the arts. "A Time To Help," founded in 1998, brings volunteers together once a month to tackle various projects in Detroit, including staffing shelters, building homes with Habitat for Humanity, and operating meals on wheels programs for the elderly. “S.A.Y Detroit,” Albom’s most recent effort, is an umbrella program to fund shelters and care for the homeless in his city. He also raises money for literacy projects through a variety of means including his performances with The Rock Bottom Remainders, a band made up of writers which includes Steven King, Dave Barry, Scott Turrow, Amy Tan and Ridley Pearson. Albom serves on the boards of various charities and, in 1999, was named National Hospice Organization's Man of the Year.

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