Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Five People You Meet In Heaven

The Five People you meet in Heaven
The Five People You Meet In Heaven
Mitch Albom 
"THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN is a wonderfully moving fable 
that addresses the meaning of life, and life after death"

   I first read this book a few years ago and really didn’t like it, however, after reading Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie and loving it, as well as reading a highly positive review of the book on Book Odyssey I figured I would return and give it another go…it was a mistake…

   The book tells the story of Eddie, a maintenance man at a fun fair who dies when a roller coaster breaks down, dropping a cart down upon him.
   The rest of the book deals with Eddie in heaven, where he meets five people who effected his life, and who offer him lessons so he can better understand his place on earth.

   This book plays out like a novelisation of a TV movie, it’s so overwhelmingly sweet and warm that it’s sickening. You can imagine the whole world of the novel appearing in that soft focus style those movies utilise, every character surrounded by a halo of light from a Vaseline coated camera lens.

   It’s got that “It’s a wonderful life” thing going for it, Eddie learns how, though he has spent his life working his one job at the fair his whole life and felt he has had no reason to live, contributing nothing to the world, he has actually had a huge effect on those who  he has protected by keeping the rides safe.
   And then there’s the lessons he learns, lessons so bland and obvious that they don’t warrant being told. They essentially boil down to things like “Don’t be angry” and “Love is nice”…did we really need to sit through this whole book (short as it is) to gain these words of wisdom?

   Speaking of words, my biggest problem with this book is the lack of dialogue. For a book based around an old man having five conversations, the conversations seem oddly absent. Instead, we’re given chapters of flashbacks and exposition.
   It’s a personal preference, I love dialogue and I love books centred around it, but I’d have preferred if these flashbacks be woven into the conversations, that the heavenly character ask questions of Eddie and Eddie recount the story as he remembered it.
   Instead, we get these chapters of exposition before the heavenly character tells Eddie “What really happened here is…” and delivers their lesson.

   This book had an interesting premise and one that I feel could have been done really well, however it’s too bogged down with unnecessary back-story and is too overly sentimental.
   It’s warm and fuzzy, a “feel good” book, the kind of thing designed to make you feel cosy without making you think. I guess that sort of thing appeals to some…I just can’t say I’m one of them.

Mitch Albom

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