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Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven

May 13, 2020

 

I’ve gone through times without a good story, forced to read boring books or maybe not even read at all. During one of these phases, I decided to pick up the most uplifting book I’ve ever read, Mich Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven. This book has touched my heart and remained in my thoughts for years after reading. I cried, laughed, and loved this book. It's helpful to read it more than once, because there are so many details I missed while reading it for the first time.  My second read showed me the reasons why the main character meets the people that he does. 

The story revolves around a man named Eddie, who does maintenance at Ruby Pier amusement park. He is a grouchy old man with a soft heart for children (that sounds creepy but it's really not), and he spends his days fixing rides and making balloon animals. 

The reader gets small amounts of background about him, but the story begins with Eddie’s death, recounting what happened in the minutes leading up to the accident. His death is not tragic nor dramatized, and Albom writes the moment of his death in a way that suggests an unexpected, even untimely, death is a normal event and could happen to anyone. This is an interesting approach, and I liked how disconnected I felt despite the gruesome nature of the accident. It was not a terribly depressing death, while still sad. Since we don’t know much about Eddie when he dies, we are conflicted about how to feel. I guessed from the title that he would die in the story and go to Heaven. From the exposition of the story and description of him, I didn’t really like his character. He seemed grumpy and altogether unpleasant. It was sad that he died, but I did not have a great appreciation for him. My opinion quickly changed as I was better introduced to his character throughout the book, however. 

When he eventually dies, he arrives in heaven and, as the book’s title suggests, meets five people. The purpose of him meeting these people is found in what they teach him. Each person provides a lesson. This is when the reader learns more about Eddie, and this is when I came to love him. He is a genuinely good and selfless person, although he may think his life was useless; he feels like his whole life was wasted working at Ruby Pier. As I grow up and start to think about what I want to do for a job, this is something I’m really afraid of. Everyone says that they don’t want a boring desk job, but for me it's more about my actions having a meaning. I’m sort of in the same mindset as Eddie, but I am not trapped in this cycle of a job going through the family. Of course, he discovers that he did have an impact. According to Ruby, whose husband named Ruby Pier after her, “But your job saved thousands of children and kept them safe,” (Albom 56)

As suggested from the title, he meets five people. They are, in order, the Blue Man, the Captain, Ruby, and I won’t spoil the rest. Some lessons are taught to him by people he affected during his life. Some come from people whose deaths he caused, and some he discovers for himself. From the Blue Man, he learns why some die and others live. The Blue Man was a little pathetic, if I’m being honest. I’m guessing that the less significant people are the first he meets, and the last are the most important. The Captain teaches him about forgiveness and sacrifice. I really liked the Captain. He was kind of mysterious but still respectable. Ruby is the middle person who shows him something about his father he never knew. I think Ruby was the voice of his father, because that chapter isn’t really about her. The last two are the most important and this is the part of the story where I cried. I’m not really a person who cries a lot, if that says anything about how tear wrenching the ending is. In a way, I think this book teaches you how and why to live your life to the fullest. Be a good person and be kind to everyone, because you never know how many people your existence has really affected. Lessons and teachings that help people to learn and grow are everywhere; sometimes meeting the right person can cause you to discover the messages in them. Every new person shares a different story and this was very eye opening for me. It shows how different everyone’s lives truly are. Eddie doesn’t recall meeting the Blue Man his life, but he did pass him by when he was a young boy. He was the cause of this man’s death, and he never knew. While this had a negative impact, the Blue Man was forgivingThis story has taught me to really appreciate everything in my life; especially my parents. Eddie did not grow up with the best childhood. His father abused him and his mother couldn’t help. He also was the fighter of his family, usually protecting his brother. I have luckily never had to deal with these issues, but I can imagine what it must feel like. These experiences hardened him, and his father affected him a lot. He tells Ruby, “Over the years, he glorified that imaginary life and held his father accountable for all of its losses: the loss of freedom, the loss of career, the loss of hope. He never rose above the dirty, tiresome work his father had left behind.” He figures out that he has to forgive his father. If I had a dad that terrible, I don’t think I could forgive him. But, when you’re in heaven, I suppose your temperament changes and forgiveness becomes the norm or at least easier.

I first read this book when I was young and carefree. I’ve been through a lot this year, especially dealing with other people. Rereading this book to write this article was so refreshing for me, and gave me a perspective on my own life that I was missing. It doesn’t matter how terrible people have been to you in the end. What’s really important is to remember to be kind to everyone and not let anything throw you off your path in life. People affect people, and I want to have a positive influence everywhere I go. After I finished the book, I sat on my bed and looked out my window and thought about everything I had just read. I recommend taking some time for reflection after reading. I sound like a yoga teacher, but trust me, this novel helps you take in everything. It really has a great ending. 

This novel is up for interpretation by all its readers. Even if you don’t believe in miracles or heaven, it still makes for a beautiful read about life, death, and reflection. We all impact people in our lives. As the blue man said, “No life is a waste… The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone,” (Albom 41). I recommend this book to every person looking for an interesting story. This fantastical book is deeper than most. Whether you love fantasy,  romance, action, or simply a coming of age story, you will enjoy this book.

Knowing the ending while reading the beginning again altered my perception of the story, and the second reading was a completely different experience from the first. The short story makes for a quick read for people who do not like to read novels, totaling to about 200 pages, and the plot is incredibly enticing, which makes the book hard to put down. I finished it in about two days and immediately went back and reread it. You will be satisfied after reading this book, and look forward to reading the sequel, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven.

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