Mitch Albom supposes in Five People you Meet in Heaven that when anyone dies they meet with five significant people in their past life (some of whom they know and some of whom they may not) who will help them make sense of their time on earth and teach them life lessons. In this book Eddie is a fairground engineer who dies throwing himself underneath a falling ride to save a young girl. The narrator tells the reader how the accident has happened but Eddie never knows and all his time in heaven he is consumed with fear that he has not succeeded in saving the girl.
Eddie is elderly and his life would appear never to have amounted to much. Apart from a period in the army during WW2 when he was in the Philippines he has lived all his life in and around the fairground, possibly trying to meet his dead father’s expectations. His five people include a couple of people that he doesn’t know and a couple that he knows well from various parts of his life – the final person is someone he always feared existed but he was never sure. With these people he revisits parts of his life when important things happened and learns how others affected him and also how what he did affected others. The book ends with him preparing to be one of someone else’s five people.
The book has a number of messages but these are primarily that we are all part of a greater whole and that we never know what affects other people of what we do and say. The author has chosen a person who in the eyes of the world has not achieved much and could be seen to have had an unfulfilled life and shown Eddie and the reader that it has had value.
This is a moving book and it had me in tears a few times, however, I was always aware that I was reacting the way that the author wanted. I felt manipulated into feeling certain things rather than the story moving me so much that I created these feelings for myself. The author has a message to get across and to do that he uses emotion as a blunt weapon and he creates it by the life events that he creates for Eddie. This book doesn’t really develop Eddie’s character much and I didn’t identify with him at all because the focus was on the events and the message. I didn’t find the message itself particularly revolutionary. I need to say here that my opinion of this book is very much in a minority and it has been very well received.
I have read a few books in my time where I have felt manipulated into emotions by the way that the author has written the book. Another example for me is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne which is a rather unbelievable account of a young boy who makes friends with another who is an inmate of a concentration camp but who doesn’t understand what is happening, and again I am very much in the minority because most people found that book very moving. I was also reminded when reading this book of The Shack by Wm Paul Young which is a book about meeting God and making sense of your life and momentous events that have happened – I really disliked that book but many others didn’t. Either I am old and cynical, which is a real possibility, or books which are designed to impart to me something very meaningful are just not my thing – or both. I shall now try more to avoid books where the blurb or reviews say that it is “moving” or “meaningful” or “healing” as it seems that this is not what I want when I am reading.
Your opinion may differ and, if so, The Five People you Meet in Heaven is well written and very cleverly constructed and obviously very popular – whatever your view ….keep reading.