Finally got round to finishing this…it’s nearly time for the next book club!
It’s so rare that you get to read something about what happens to people when they die. A very in depth talk about the afterlife and all that it involves. One of the only books I can think of that I have read that is written beyond the grave is The Lovely Bones. In The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold’s Heaven is a very personal place. It transforms for the dead and becomes an open world where the trapped soul of Susie Salmon can peak into life on Earth and see the developments and lives of the people she left behind. I think that Mitch Albom’s Heaven is another example of the portrayal of a personal Heaven, a Heaven that teaches us about our life and the people in it. Albom’s Heaven includes five people from our lives that who may have known well or not at all. These people wait for you until you die and manifest in your Heaven and give you lessons to take with you.
At our book club, one sunny May day, Kate said that five people weren’t enough people to meet in Heaven, that she would want ten because she wouldn’t be able to choose who she would want to see. Thinking about this now, I don’t think it’s a matter of choice. I’m sure Eddie the maintenance man for Ruby Pier would have wanted the choice to speak to his father in Heaven. I think that in some cases, it can just be too late to mend some bridges and that the lessons that we learn from this is what counts. Meeting ten people in Heaven wouldn’t necessarily teach us the main lessons we need to know to truly be at peace, just five important lessons could be enough.
Eddie is the maintenance man at a popular amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, Eddie risks his life to save a young girl from a crashing ride. When he dies, he feels two small hands in his own before he floats to Heaven where he meets five people who tell him about his life and what he can learn from it. The first person Eddie meets in Heaven is The Blue Man who worked at Ruby Pier’s sideshow. Eddie is unintentionally the reason that The Blue Man died and Eddie, immediately filled with guilt is told by The Blue Man that everyone’s lives are connected in some way and that life and that nothing just happens at random. A quote I really liked from this part of the book is:
“fairness does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young”.
I think we liked how this book dealt with death and the idea of Heaven. If you’ve ever seen the movie Corrina, Corrina, you’ll remember the scene where Molly’s dad says that Heaven doesn’t exist and that it’s just something that people make up to feel better about death. If so, then Albom’s Heaven would make us feel hopeful that not only is there something after death but that we will significantly know more about ourselves after life. If knowing and understanding the meaning of your life in Heaven is something to look forward to, then I wouldn’t see any harm in people believing that there’s somewhere for us to go after we die.
The second person that Eddie meets in Heaven is his Captain from when he was in the army. From the Captain, Eddie learns that it was because of the Captain that Eddie had a bad leg. When Eddie and the other soldiers escaped from being captured in the Philippines, the tent where they were held set on fire. For a while Eddie thought he could see someone in the flames and therefore was stood stunned in front of the place wanting to go in and save them. In order to save his life, the Captain shot Eddie in the leg (unbeknownst to Eddie until after he dies) and carried him a long to flee being recaptured. Eddie also learned that by stepping on a landmine as they were getting away, the Captain sacrificed himself for the rest of his men. There are sacrifices that are big and small and this is what Eddie learns from him. We didn’t have much to say about the Captain in the book club. I don’t know whether we liked him or not but I know that we liked his lesson :).
The third person that Eddie meets is Ruby and she is also Ruby Pier’s namesake. She teaches Eddie to let go of his anger and to forgive his father for the damage he caused in his life. We learn a lot about Eddie’s father in this chapter and find out why he was the way he was with Eddie. Although Ruby wasn’t directly in Eddie’s life, the lesson she teaches him is forgiveness and helps him let go of the anger he has for his father. His father died calling his family members names into the night. It shows he still cared and the he wanted to be forgiven.
Eddie’s fourth person to meet in Heaven is his wife. She was the love of his life. In the flashbacks of Eddie’s birthdays throughout the book we see the development of their relationship and how from the beginning he knew he wanted to marry her. I see their love story as like an old Hollywood movie. We all really liked her character. She was so motherly and loving and everything that Eddie deserved. Marguerite teaches Eddie about the power of love and its endurance and that love is not lost with death.
The final person Eddie meets in Heaven is surprising. Her name is Tala and she was a young girl that burned to death in the fire in the Philippines. I don’t think any of us thought that would be the last person. The small hands he felt in his own and he drifted up to Heaven were not the little girl’s whose life he had saved, but Tala’s as she brought him to her. At this news, Eddie weeps and cries. Tala is very mature for her age. She isn’t angry and Eddie or sad for dying, she comes across very “matter of fact” when she speaks to him about what happened. Upon reflection, I would say she is my favourite character. Tala asks Eddie why he was so sad on Earth. Eddie tells her it was because he accomplished nothing, but this response confuses Tala. She tells Eddie that he accomplished a lot as he kept children safe at Ruby Pier and made them happy. Ruby Pier was “where [he was] supposed to be”. I think it’s so easy to think that we have this huge purpose in life and it’s our mission to find out what it is. I think the final lesson allows us to think about our general existence and that our purpose doesn’t necessarily have to be extravagant or other-worldly. We are all significant in different ways, just like Eddie 🙂 xx
Like last time, we figured out if we had an absurd amount of money who would we put in our movie version of The Five People You Meet In Heaven…
Eddie – Tommy Lee Jones
Young Eddie – Josh Hartnett
The Blue Man – Paul Giamatti
The Captain – Josh Brolin
Ruby – Maggie Smith
Marguerite – Marian Cotillard
Tala – Aubrey Anderson-Emmons
Eddie’s Dad – Jon Voight
The next book is To Kill A Mockingbird (can you believe none of us have ever read it :o)