Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

SUMMARY from GoodReads:

five people you meet in heaven

Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination, but an answer.

In heaven, five people explain your life to you. Some you knew, others may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie’s five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his “meaningless” life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: “Why was I here?”

REVIEW:

I was always intrigued by this book, since my friends recommended it to read. So, although I didn’t know what to expect, I wasn’t optimistic about reading Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Getting good review from her works, I finally read her collection this year.

The End…or is it? When someone dies are they just dead or does more lie behind death’s door? How one book can change your outlook on life? This book explores those questions in an interesting and insightful way.

Strange as it is but Albom explained this by saying, “It might seem strange to start a story with an ending. But all endings are beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time…”

This fictional story is about an ordinary man’s journey through Heaven. His life’s stories are inter-woven within the chapters of the book and are revealed as he encounters the five people who most impacted his life (and no, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be able to guess 4 out of the 5!).

Albom seeks to comfort and delight his readers with his depiction of what happens after death. This story takes us to the journey of life and death of Eddie, a maintenance man at a fairground called ‘Ruby Pier’. The story starts on Eddie’s 83rd birthday when he is killed from a broken ride. Upon going to heaven, he meets five people who, while he was alive changed his life in very significant ways. Eddie does meet five people, not all of whom he crossed paths with on earth but all of whom had something to teach him about his life.

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It doesn’t give anything away to say the five people you meet in heaven are actually the five people Eddie, our protagonist, meets in heaven. Albom starts at the end of Eddie’s life and works both forward and backwards. She explores what happens to Eddie after he dies in a freak amusement park accident and flashes back to various stages in Eddie’s life, beginning with his birth and using subsequent birthdays along the way to anchor the pivotal moments in his life. Of course, the five people — each of whom had influenced Eddie’s life while they were alive — all have something to teach Eddie. Each person shows him glimpses and brings memories of past moments in his life and convey to the reader a lesson, message and overwhelming feeling of impact.

5 People… 5 Lessons…

First Person: Blue Man

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“All people you will meet here will have one thing to teach you.” 

“That there are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.”

The first person Eddie met was the Blue Man. He died while he was driving, Eddie, who was then a kid, came running after a baseball. The Blue Man swerved his car in an attempt to avoid hitting Eddie but then his weak heart wasn’t able to contain the adrenalin rush. Eddie indirectly caused the Blue Man’s death.

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I love how it simplifies human relationship. Connection. We affect each person we meet; encounter or even that passes our way for no matter how short a period of time. That everything happens for a reason. That people we met before we die altered our lives forever and strangers are just family we have yet to come to know. Our actions have consequences that we are unaware of, most of the time. An act that you thought was random might have cost someone’s life. Life is a matter of choice, not a chance!

“No life is a waste. The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking that we are alone.”

The blue man might have died but his death allowed Eddie to live. This is a recurring theme of the story, that lives are interconnected, and every man’s action has a way of affecting other lives.

Second Person: The Captain

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“We all have to make sacrifices. It is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to; May it be little or big sacrifices.” 

The second person that Eddie met in heaven was his Captain in the military. The Captain was Eddie’s commanding officer in WWII. The men looked up to him because of one promise that the Captain promised to ensure to his soldiers: ‘no man gets left behind.’ Eddie learns that his injury that was caused by a shot in the leg was actually caused by the Captain. Eddie then learns that the shot to his leg saved his life, when Eddie would not stop trying to get into a burning hut. Eddie wasn’t aware that their captain died during the war. While they were trying to escape the mine and Eddie was unconscious due to the bullet shot in his leg, the Captain accidentally stepped on a landmine.

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“Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it. You are passing it on to someone else.”

Sacrifice is a part of life. We all made one, for ourselves, for our family, for the country… And it’s not something to regret but to aspire. Humans, as fragile and close minded as we are, often are angry and frustrated over our own version of sacrifice. We keep thinking about what we lost and keep wondering all the might have beens’ and what ifs’ had we not sacrifice something over someone or over something else. But, if you step outside that box and see the bigger and better view- it makes sense. It made everything fall into place. And yes, the sacrifices, it was all worth it. That’s what matters to me.

Third Person: Ruby

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“Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves. No one is born with anger. We need to free ourselves from it. We need to forgive others and forgive ourselves.”

Eddie’s third person in heaven was Ruby Pier, the woman whose name the amusement park where Eddie worked was named after. They’ve never met on earth but Ruby witnessed the last moments of Eddie’s father in the hospital because her husband and Eddie’s father was in the same room. The lesson that Ruby shared is my personal favorite. Tears welled up in my eyes as I read this chapter. It was about FORGIVENESS.

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She tells that Eddie was unsatisfied with his life not solely because of his father but also because he was not at peace with himself. He was mad at his father because of the way he treated Eddie when he was a child. The hatred he feels for his father is making his heart feel heavier. Realizing this, Eddie allowed himself to be freed from hatred and forgave his father for all the hurt he caused him.

“No one is born with anger. And when we die, the soul is freed from it.”

I learned in this part that people tend to behave differently when confronted with conflicts. While some fearlessly face the problem, others keep silent just like Eddie’s dad. I love how the author mentioned though silence can be our escape, it is rarely a safe haven. That holding on to anger is a poison that can damage us inside out. The hardest to do is letting go, forgetting and forgiving.  We must let go of all the awful feelings, for it hinders us to be a better person and to have a nicer perspective we should all feel. Let’s not rob off ourselves that chance to be genuinely happy and free.

Fourth Person: Marguerite

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“LOST LOVE IS STILL LOVE. It takes a different form. Life has to end but love doesn’t. Love, like the rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with a soaking joy. But sometimes, under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must be nourish from below, tending to its roots, keeping itself alive.”

“Every life has one true love snapshot.”

Marguerite, the love of Eddie’s life, his wife and true love, was his fourth person in heaven. She died of brain tumor. Eddie never completely accepted her death and even after she died, Eddie loved no other woman but her. Marguerite taught Eddie that love is eternal and even if people dear to you died, you continuously love them. That kind of love, it takes a different form, that’s all. You can’t see their smile or bring them food or tousle their hair or move them around a dance floor. But when those senses weaken, another heightens. Memory.  You nurture it. You hold it. You dance with it.

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“Life might end but love doesn’t.”

“People say they “find” love, as if it were an object hidden by a rock. But love takes many forms and it is never the same for any man and woman. What people find then is a CERTAIN love.”

Love. It’s everybody’s favorite topic…Of course this book wouldn’t be complete without this lesson. And I guess I love talking about this too. Love can be experience in different shapes. We can show it through physical gestures, a simple smile or hug; or encouraging words. But when we lost a loved one and death hinders us from demonstrating our love through our senses, memory fulfills it. It’s been said, told and narrated over and over again. But let me say it again, IT IS BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST THAN TO NEVER LOVE AT ALL.

Fifth Person: Tala

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“There is a significant reason for every person’s existence. Life is intertwined.”

“Heaven can be found in the most unlikely corners.”

Tala, a Filipina child who was in a nipa hut that Eddie burned when they escaped from the Japanese who held them as war prisoners, was Eddie’s fifth person. She told Eddie that his life was significant because of the work that he’d done as a maintenance worker at the amusement park. Eddie was surprised because it was the work that he loathed and thought of as very insignificant. But Tala expressed that if not for Eddie, people and children could have died from the rides. Eddie, then, kept people’s lives safe from danger.

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“This is the greatest gift God can give you: to understand what happened in your life. To have it explained. It is the peace you have been searching for.”

Our EXISTENCE has a meaning. Many times we are miserable because we feel like we didn’t do anything with our life. We accomplished nothing. We feel like we are not supposed to be where we are. We always want to be somewhere-there, not here. We lived thinking of what ifs and one day and someday that sometimes it felt like we lived without living at all. I feel this, much often than I want to. Guilty as charge. I learned that there is no insignificant, unimportant person; each of them we encounter plays a role in our lives. No matter how short-lived the moment was or how long we spent time with them, how wasted or how well spent it was. It all plays a part in our life. They come to hurts us, teach us, break us, bend us, catch us, disappoint us, love us or leave us. But look, we’re still here. Because our life has a meaning. Find that purpose in you and hold on to it.

Albom is trying to tell us that we are all significant, no matter how lowly we think of ourselves, our jobs, or our life. This also teaches us that a mistake we committed in the past doesn’t make us a totally bad person because we can compensate for them.

Everyone has their point of view about heaven. You may think that our life ends when we die, but this book says no, it does not end like that. After death, comes the start of a new adventure. We all thought that heaven is just a single place, beautiful, and serene. But heaven is what you least expect it to be. In this world, everyone has a different version of their heaven and it’s not an island in the Caribbean.

Albom’s style of writing is simple, lyrical and beautiful. He writes with a sense of grace and tenderness towards the characters, maybe this is because the character of Eddie is based on his own uncle.

The book is simply written with the lessons outlined at the end of each chapter. Each lesson struck a chord with my own personal experiences and although it hasn’t solved my current situation, it has given me a lot to think about…but in a good way! This is more of a book of realizations about how your life is going on right now. Do you have a baggage that is hard to let go? Are you scared of something? Are you angry with someone? Do you hold grudges in your heart that ain’t easy to let go? This book takes you down your memory lane to re-evaluate how your life is turning into.

It talks that you will meet five people that wait for you in heaven and each one have a story to share that somehow altered your life forever. Each one to tell you the role you played in their life and in earth when you were alive. This book did not only made me teary eyed but somehow left a heavy feeling inside me, though in a good way which being inspired and moved is the aftermath.

For me, this is quite interesting and touching. Not bad, worth to spend your time reading it. This book would actually help you to understand something that you don’t really understand what is happening around us. Looking at the people you pass in the street. Thinking about if and how they affected you life. Thinking about our past loved ones. Or even, it would remind you something that you had already known, but then you never thought or notice about it. Thinking that our lives, no matter how they are spent, are important and valuable. And are never, ever wasted.

All in all, I loved the book and the movie almost completely resembles the book. I would recommend it for those people who enjoys soul searching and contemplating about life but not so much to the average movie watchers for they might find it a bit dragging, boring even. I’ll let you in on that one line that struck me most according to Albom, “Each (story) affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”  You have the power to affect and change someone’s life even without being aware of it. Exercise cautiousness and spread love.

This is a very good book and I recommend it for you to read! They made this book into a film HERE’s a short video for you to have a glimpse how the story is.
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One thought on “Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

  1. Wonderful blog on Book Review: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom … if your looking for The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

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