If the world is full of stories, how does yours connect?
A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of reading Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven and this week I am finally capturing my thoughts on the book – have you read it? If so leave a comment and let me know what you think, I’d love to discuss.
Now, as promised, a book review …
This is an older book, having been published in 2003 after the success of Mitch Albom’s Tuesday’s With Morrie, but in light of the sequel that is currently slated for release in October this seemed like the perfect start to a series of book reviews.
“The End” is the opening chapter to Albom’s story about Eddie, an amusement park maintenance worker and the five people he meets in heaven after his death. Don’t worry, if you haven’t read the novel yet his death isn’t a spoiler, the opening of the novel let’s the secret out right away. Through a series of chapters that follows Eddie’s life – specifically his birthdays – the character is swung through a series of memories a la It’s a Wonderful Life and the people that he had an impact on or who impacted his life in a meaningful way, even if he didn’t know it at the time.
Eddie strikes the reader as a typical grumpy old man that might be found in any story that spotlights this particular style of character – and as is typical of the character he has a rough exterior that belies the warm teddy bear underneath. This is not original, it’s been done many times in many different ways. What sets this story apart from the others like it is the cast of characters that share the spotlight with the protagonist for their sections and the reader is able to see them as both a supporting character and as the hero of their own story. This unique perspective could be applied to life; while we are the hero of our own story we can see how we may be the bit player in someone else’s story through Eddie’s experiences.
Is this the best novel that anyone will ever read? Most likely not, but Albom does something spectacular. He makes you feel for an old man who maybe wasn’t the greatest and maybe wasn’t the worst – he walked the line of mediocrity and regret and even through all of that it becomes possible to care deeply as if his pain is personal, as if perhaps his story is tied into your own.
“And in that line now was a whiskered old man, with a linen cap and a crooked nose, who waited in a place called the Stardust Band Shell to share his part of the secret of heaven: that each affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”