Sep 302009
Authors: Savannah King

Caution: This one’s a tear-jerker.

Mitch Albom’s “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” explores the life story of Eddie, a sweet, mediocre, normal man by all accounts.

Albom’s unique approach to reviewing Eddie’s life is what makes this novel so special: He does it after Eddie has died through a string of five people who explain influential events in Eddie’s life.

After dying through the selfless act of pushing a little girl out of the way of a falling amusement park ride cart, Eddie arrives in “heaven” — or one of many versions of it.

For each individual person Eddie meets, they each have their own heaven, unique to them, in which Eddie stays for a while.

During the time spent there, each of these people explain a significant event which had occurred during Eddie’s life and how it somehow affected him, whether he was aware of its effect or not.

For Eddie, it solves mysteries of his life he had never known existed and provides meaning to an otherwise unremarkable life spent on earth.

This is the deal: he must fully accept and understand these sometimes heart-wrenching unknown realities to move on to his own heaven, where he will bide his time in happiness, waiting to explain someone else’s life to them.

Oddly, some of the people Eddie meets in heaven he never met in real life: The Blue Man, a man whom Eddie unknowingly killed when he was a child. Ruby, who was in the next room when Eddie’s father died. Tala, a little girl who was burned in a hut Eddie set fire to as a soldier in the war.

On the other end of the spectrum, Eddie is allowed the chance to meet his old captain from the war, as well as his long-dead and beloved wife, Marguerite.

These five people possess a completely unbiased outlook and outsider perspective that allows them a necessary matter-of-factness when teaching Eddie.

The five’s teachings provide lessons to readers who pay attention while the five speak of a curious butterfly effect which many people ignore.

“. each affects the other, and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one,” Albom writes.

Albom never drops the matter, and he wants you to consider: If you chase after a ball into the street, will the driver have a heart attack and die once he veers far out of your sight? If you start a business, are you responsible when decades later it catches fire, causing illness and death? If you negligently toss a bottle off a bridge, do you later know of deaths you caused when it smashed into a car windshield?

Through all these small choices that turn out horribly, Albom never stops questioning, urging all people to consider their actions carefully, and the repercussions they have on those around you.

He makes you question: What consequences has my life had? Who have I affected?

“Did you ever wonder,” Albom asks the reader, “why people gather when others die? Why people feel they should? It is because the human spirit knows, deep down, that all lives intersect.”

Entertainment writer Savannah King can be reached at

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