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
My two cents worth:
I’ve always liked Albom’s simplistic style of writing with the ability to deliver strong messages across to the readers. Like his other books that I’ve read, The Five People You Meet in Heaven also succeeds to pull at the heart strings.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven begins with an introduction of the main character Eddie who lives in solitude after the death of his wife. The only human contact being his colleagues at Ruby Pier where he heads Maintenance.
Eddie losses his life in a freak accident and encounters five people in heaven that proceeds to teach him lessons in life. The people that he encounters; some strangers and some he knew have all significantly affected his life, with or without his awareness of their significance at that point.
The underlying theme of the book is that we are all connected to each other. Each decision we make in life will affect another person whether it is someone you know or a complete stranger and this message is strongly delivered from the five different people he meets in the afterlife. Other messages that came across is the importance of sacrifice, forgiveness, love and life itself.
The Five People You Meet in Heaven is poignant and provides important lessons that would make a reader reflect on what’s important in life after reading the book. I love the messages that came from the book but I found the storyline not as engaging as his other books. To date, Tuesdays With Morrie still remains my personal favourite from Albom.