Eddie is a grizzled war veteran who feels trapped in a meaningless life of fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. As the park has changed over the years - from the Loop-the-Loop to the Pipeline Plunge - so, too, has Eddie changed, from optimistic youth to embittered old age. His days are a dull routine of work, loneliness, and regret.
Then, on his 83rd birthday, Eddie dies in a tragic accident, trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. With his final breath, he feels two small hands in his - and then nothing. He awakens in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a lush Garden of Eden, but a place where your earthly life is explained to you by five people who were in it. These people may have been loved ones or distant strangers. Yet each of them changed your path forever.
One by one, Eddie's five people illuminate the unseen connections of his earthly life. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, Eddie desperately seeks redemption in the still-unknown last act of his life: Was it a heroic success or a devastating failure? The answer, which comes from the most unlikely of sources, is an inspirational glimpse of heaven itself.
(Summary from jacket flap)
Whew, that was a long summary.
The Five People You Meet In Heaven is a warmly confusing book. If such a thing is possible.
After first finishing it I was left dissatisfied. It seemed like there had been too much plot for too little book. The writing seemed sparse and unemotional, and the events were logistically improbable.
But after sitting on it a while and letting my thoughts work themselves out, I've come to the conclusion that this is a really wonderful piece of literature.
The prose that I first thought was bare now seems to be simple and effortless, helping to get the story across plainly and effectively. And the improbable events just added a nice dream-like quality to the novel.
It was the way that it was written, the way everything fit together so nicely, that made it all work. Now, I can definitely see why this is a book that has been remembered.
This is the first book of Mitch Albom's that I've read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It made me think about things in a different way. It was well-written, graceful, and just an all-around good book.