Debriefing: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Posted on February 20, 2009. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , |

What happens when you pass onto the next world? Is there Heaven, if so what is it like? Who do you see? If I were to go to Heaven after finishing this post there are more than 5 people I would like to be reunited with, but is that how it works? Mitch Albom takes a side of the after-life debate in this novel and puts you at ease with what may happen after Earth.

Eddie is a maintenance worker at Ruby Pier and passes on his birthday at the age of 83 but his story was not over with the last breath of his life. Eddie had lived a long life and was ready to be greeted and welcomed to the next stage of ‘life’ by five people. Eddie did not readily know or recognize all five people but each one had a lasting impact and lesson for Eddie. These were people that Eddie had met in the past or had briefly encountered, and it seemed that most of these people felt the impact Eddie directly had on their lives was memorable. The story plays through the lessons and stories that each of the characters share with Eddie. From acquaintances to lovers Eddie learned more about his life and the people he cared deeply about through these five people than he did while he was actually living. The story focuses on forgiving, finding peace and growing, all of which you feel you do with Eddie as you progress through the story.

Eddie starts his last day normal, working at the Pier like he has for most of his life. He doesn’t feel or seem different, or close to death but we know he is. His last moment on Earth is spent trying to save someone else’s life, which provides an interesting plot for the remainder of the tale. Since Eddie dies he doesn’t know if actually succeeded in saving the young girl’s life… Eddie’s mission in the book other than reaching Heaven and meeting his five people is to find out if he actually saved her. Eddie’s story is told through his five people, in mostly a chronological order – his body changes as he meets each person as well, showing the signs of aging. Eddie’s childhood is exposed, as was his parent’s habits, tendencies and effect on Eddie. As Eddie progresses through the war we are exposed to the world that Military Men and Women are exposed to and maybe understand just that much more about their struggles even when war ends. The stories about Eddie’s past are enchanting and relate-able – Eddie could be any of us. Eddie moves from world to world and from each of his five people’s heavens and he not only learns more about himself and his history but he learns about others and teaches us a lesson of how we impact everyone we directly or indirectly encounter: the world is truly a small place.

In the end you are at peace with Eddie, his life and his decisions and it is easy to reflect on your own life to determine where you can forgive, forget and possibly learn to love a little more unconditionally. For Eddie, many of the stories also explained sources of pain that he was given, and the reasons that the pain was placed on him, helping to resolve the unforgiven pain in Eddie’s heart. The story leaves you wanting to smile that much more and helps you find solace in the mistakes you may have made, maybe we will each get a chance to come to peace with our mistakes. Going a little further beyond this it seemed that to Eddie the five people that greeted him in Heaven were ‘random’, save a few, but at the same time Eddie was not random to those five people. If i were venture to Heaven today I could think of more than 5 people I’d want to meet, but I would easily say that I would love to be greeted by my dog, (Maybe he could be my companion for the journey), my Uncle, My Grandpa, and 2 people whose lives I have affected without realizing it.

This is a very quick read, but a worthwhile one. It is powerful, but not forceful and it is hard to put down. It is a simple tale of a simple maintenance worker that will stay with you well beyond the last page. While this is a short simple review, I feel like short and simple make this book memorable and enjoyable.


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