Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Five People You Meet in Heaven

What is heaven? What happens when we die?

The answers to the questions vary among religions. Heaven could look like the most beautiful place on earth with green fields and flowers. Or, if you want to believe the version of suicide bombers heaven is a place of 72 virgins. But whatever the differences, all are in agreement that human life is judged upon death and heaven is the reward.

Writer Mitch Albom of the Tuesdays with Morrie fame disagrees, however. In his book The Five People You Meet in Heaven, he explores the idea of afterlife, and concludes that virgins and flowers are not the greatest gift of God when people die.

The story is not written in a straight narrative style but in a flashback centered through the life of its lead character Eddie. In the very first few pages alone Eddie is dead. He lived a simple life as a maintenance worker in an amusement park. And like many others who have achieve rich and fame, the thoughts of failure and under achievement is foremost on his mind.

It is the image of failure and lack of purpose that the ‘five people’ in heaven are there to explain and to correct. Select events, five in all, will be recalled and used to explain the point of Eddie’s stay on Earth. God’s greatest gift, as the ‘five’ would point out, is Eddie learn his (or what has been) his purpose.

Going through the pages can be disorienting when the story jumps from past to present. There are scenes in heaven and scenes of Eddie when he was living. You feel at times that you are in no better shape than person who just died. But in spite of some difficulty in the story line the end result is a perfect picture of Eddie: a common man who has done all he could in life yet thinks that he failed.

The use of Eddie, a common man, as lead the story easily strikes a chord with the reader. Many of whom may not have always had an exciting life; who may not have enough money; who not have many reasons to smile. There is a purpose to everything and we are not all meant to be kings.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven style of writing is easy on the mind because its words are simple. A real page turner but not in the usual suspenseful way. Albom’s style has the ability to make you not only to review Eddie’s life but it also makes you review your own. No doubt the book’s topic is a big help in promoting that introspective feeling. Heaven and the afterlife has its way of making yourself look inward.

I had doubts in reading the book because of the religious nature of ‘heaven’. The last thing I wanted to read about were the opinions of man who has not seen heaven or isn’t even dead, but I took a chance when a friend assured that it was not.

And, though the story did not leave me with a smile, it has certainly proved to be an interesting. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.