Mitch Albom wrote The Five People You Meet In Heaven in 2003. I discovered it when I was around 15 years old – some 11 years later. To this day, it is my favourite book for so many reasons.
The first time I read this book, I read it in one sitting. And I am easily distracted, often finding it hard to focus for too long. But this story captivated me. To put it simply, it’s about a man called Eddie who dies at 83 years old. He dies in an accident at the amusement park Ruby Pier, where he works as a maintenance worker and has done for most of his life, trying to save a little girl.
The concept of heaven in Albom’s book was inspired by his real-life uncle, Edward Beitchman. He lived a similar life to the fictional Eddie of the book. His uncle had gone to the hospital with a fever and when he woke up, he saw his dead relatives, at the end of his bed, waiting for him. This sparked an interest in the afterlife within Albom. He contemplated the idea of a handful of people waiting for you when you die. And created an image of heaven where your life is explained to you by people you knew and people you didn’t but that all played a part in your life, somehow. He developed this idea into what is The Five People You Meet In Heaven. And here are my reasons why I think it is a book you should definitely read in your lifetime.
Your Heaven is Your Heaven
The heaven that Eddie finds himself in is strange. It doesn’t make sense to him. But, as the story goes on, the place that he is in grows warm and he feels like he is exactly where he needs to be.
By this point, he has met his five people. Two, who he knew in his life – the Captain, his commanding officer in WWII and the love of his life, Marguerite. Two, who were, in some way, impacted by his actions – The Blue Man whose death he caused as a child by running after a ball into the street, causing the man to swerve and crash, and Tala, the girl who died in a fire in a tent when he was at war. And one, who had affected his life – Ruby of Ruby Pier i.e the wife of Emile, the man who created Ruby Pier. And when he comes to the end of his journey, he reaches his forever heaven: the Stardust Band Shell where he dances with his wife Marguerite and waits as someone else’s person in heaven. He is happy. And loved. He is in his heaven.
I love the concept of heaven as unique to you. Eddie is happy where he is. And isn’t happiness what we all want?
Eddie is Somebody
One of my favourite things about this story is that Eddie is a blue-collar worker who has lived a normal life. He’s had a job that he did every day, had a wife, and didn’t do much more. And the one important thing he learns in heaven is that he may not have felt as though he lived his life to the fullest. But, his life was important. The book ends with the secret of heaven,
'That each affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.'
The notion that no matter how unremarkable we may feel compared to famous celebrities or millionaires or even just people we know, we are important and part of a connected story about humanity is striking. The Five People You Meet In Heaven teaches us that we are important without even realising it. Eddie, as a maintenance worker at the Pier, allows children to be safe and have fun and that is a wonderful thing to offer. Even if they genuinely think his name is ‘Eddie Maintenance’! And that is something we should remember in our lives. Being driven and having ambition is important to live the lives we dream about but the simple things in life are necessary for the clockwork to keep going to keep us all on time!
Relationships Are Most Important
In society nowadays, there are so many limitations that we have imprisoned ourselves within. They’re all based on a number of things like wealth, race, beliefs, gender and so many more. And that’s something that not only makes life harder for most, but also perpetuates unhappiness. And yet, happiness and laughter is something we all want and strive for. Who doesn’t want to laugh so much that their sides start aching? In Albom’s novel, happiness can be found in most things and they don’t require money. They just require souls and in those souls coming together and relationships forming as Eddie has with Marguerite. In spite of the lack of adventure in Eddie’s life, his true happiness is found in his times spent with Marguerite and Albom explores the importance of relationships in an incredibly engaging way. This is because he doesn’t just focus on intense or romantic relationships.
The relationship Eddie has with his college Dominguez is presented in such a realistic way – the older man and the younger, cheeky man at work together. This means that when Eddie dies, Dominguez feels it and consequently mourns Eddie. Albom reflects on Eddie’s absence in his colleague’s lives and this highlights the fact that although Eddie had no family left while he was on Earth, he did leave people that cared about him; he wasn’t alone. And his relationships mattered and were a part of his and their identities.
There is so much I can say about The Five People You Meet in Heaven…
All the reasons I absolutely love it. Why I appreciate how reading it made me think about heaven but also life, differently. It made me think about my everyday life with more hope and love in my heart. Because at the end of the day, I truly believe we are all like Eddie. We are trying to survive in a world where it can sometimes feel like life is passing us by while we’re not doing what we truly want. But, I now realise that my aspirations aren’t impossible to achieve if I want to achieve them. But, when it comes down to it, my happiness is when I go out with my sister or my best friend, or even just spending a cosy evening watching a movie with my dad.
Of course, I can be happy on my own with a face mask on and a book in my hand. But it is in our relationships with others that we grow and find new ways to laugh and smile and be happy.