Through the first days of the month as I tried to pick up the pieces of 2017 throwing them away for a new 2018 I listened to Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” on audiobook narrated by the author himself. This is a rather short read/listen that felt like a calming presence as I began to reflect on the new year.
The story follows Eddie, an amusement park maintenance man, on his 83rd birthday as well as the day of his death. He dies trying to save a little girl from one of the rides he would so carefully check as the cables snapped unexpectedly. We then follow him through as he travels through heaven meeting people who affected his life learning a lesson with each new person. With each person the one question keeps on asking is “Did I save the little girl?”
I found this novel compelling. With each new person we were able to see a different side of heaven. I found it interesting that with each new side of heaven we saw through Eddie’s eyes were not only familiar to Eddie but also surrounded Ruby Pier, the place where Eddie worked and grew up.
Part of the enchantment that I found in the novel was the audiobook format of the novel. The combination of Albom’s writing style and narration made me feel as if I was a child again being read a bedtime story. Albom provided different voices for each of the characters. The most distinct voice was given to Eddie who sounds gravely almost a hint of a New York accent which made him sound extremely similar to many old men that I know.
The setting and time frame plays well into this “story time feel” as well. The main place in the book is Ruby Pier, an amusement park like Coney Island, but a bit smaller, that has changed over time. It’s an old time amusement park with great rides, games, and of course cotton candy. Ruby Pier is described as a place where both the young and old can enjoy themselves. Many characters say throughout the book that they wished Ruby Pier had never been built but ultimately the most that comes out of the park is fond memories and the beauty from the ferris wheel.
Another setting to examine is the time period. The time spans the 83 years of Eddie’s life which starts from the 1920s through about the late 1990s and early 2000s. This includes Eddie’s childhood, teen years, his time fighting in World War II, and his marriage all behind the backdrop of Ruby Pier. I would say the main decades written about in this book were from the 1920s through the early 1960s where we are able to see Eddie’s life more vividly. In the modern American society these are all decades that are romanticized. Eddie is a part of what we call today “The Greatest Generation”. This paired with the background of Ruby Pier gives the book a modern America Fairy Tale quality. Even the writing style lends itself to a Fairy Tale quality with as we look at the past through the years on Eddie’s birthday. With each passing chapter as Mitch Albom read “Today is Eddie’s birthday. . .” the phrase started to feel more like “Once upon a time”.
The book does take an interesting approach on death and how individuals interact with each other. Each of the five people that Eddie meets in heaven not only tells their story but also give him a lesson. In many ways this lesson is comforting. It always feels like a pause in the story where people are supposed to reflect on their life. The lessons are very simplistic and comforting in a way. The focus does not pull on large events but rather the little details of life that everyone takes for granted. The message carries through that even the smallest acts can impact a person profoundly both in a positive and negative way.
If you are looking for a rather short read with a comforting message I do recommend “The Five People you Meet in Heaven”. It gives itself a modern American Fairy Tale in a way. I also would definitely recommend the audiobook version read by Mitch Albom. If anyone has read the book please comment on this post and let me know what you thought of it. Feel free to share this post with friends who would enjoy it. If you liked it yourself feel free to let me know, or if you didn’t feel free to tell me why.