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5 October 2010
Review: THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, Mitch Albom
NB - Not crime fiction
It was Eddie's birthday, his 83rd, and the last hour of his life, not that he knew that. He spent the last hour, like most of the others in his life, at Ruby Pier, an amusement park, where his job, for most of his life, had been maintaining the rides, keeping people safe. He spent the last minutes of his life trying to save the life of a little girl in the path of a plummeting rogue cable car.
I must admit, when a colleague pressed this book on me, I was doubtful. You know me, addicted to crime fiction, I just don't "do" other genres. "Go on", she said as she pressed the book into my hands, "It'll be a quick read for you."
We learn a surprising amount about Eddie's life, his life-history really, with windows through a number of his birthdays: he grew up, went off to war in the Phillippines, came back, married, then went back to work on the amusement park, to look after his father, who was the maintenance man.
After the accident, Eddie woke in a teacup, part of an old amusement park ride, on the Ruby Pier of his childhood. Eddie begins his trip in heaven, spending time in succession with five people whose lives he either changed or who had an impact on his. In each case Eddie is taken back to a part of his life, reminded of something he did. In each "episode" Eddie gets older. He begins to understand that these people have been waiting in heaven for his arrival, so they can tell him what he must "learn" about that part of his life.
This book reminded me of Dicken's Ebenezer Scrooge and the journey he took with Marley's Ghost, although the intent of this book was very different. And yes, my colleague was right, it was an enjoyable read. The structure was almost that of a series of connected short stories with Eddie as the central character.
My rating: 4.3
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?"