First things first: I promise you I don’t just read books because my sister tells me to. However, in the case of The five people you meet in Heaven that is actually the case.
She actually made me read it at about the same time that she also had me read Good Omens, but this one I was quite a bit more weary about. For one thing, I’d seen a bunch of comments on how ‘Literaturish’ (with capital L) it was. For another thing, it literally tells the story of a guy who dies. That’s basically all I knew when I started it for the first time, so, you know…
Anyways, I’ve just recently re-read it, so I figured I might as well go ahead and write a review about it!
All endings are also beginnings. We just don’t know it at the time…
Let’s go to GoodReads for this one again, shall we?
“Eddie is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart. He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination, but an answer.
In heaven, five people explain your life to you. Some you knew, others may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie’s five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his “meaningless” life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: “Why was I here?” ”
In order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did and why you no longer need to feel it.
Now, as far as summaries go, that is actually a pretty good one. Because here’s the thing: if you’re trying to describe this story, you can’t really say much more than ‘this guy dies and then meets 5 people in heaven’. Which is basically what just the title says as well, so, you know…
Eddie, the main character, as was already mentioned in the summary, is an elderly man who still works, as he has all his life, at a seaside amusement park. This amusement park has existed on Ruby’s Pier for years now, and Eddie has been working there almost as long. On the day that he turns 83, he unexpectedly dies while trying to save a little girl.
Love like rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with soaking joy. But sometimes, under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must nourish from below, tending to its roots, keeping itself alive.
When Eddie wakes up, it is to find that he’s seemingly back at the Pier as it was when he was child. It’s here that he encounters The Blue Man. As he goes on, and slowly gets closer and closer to his “dying age”, he encounters his former captain, the girl Ruby’s Pier was named after, Eddie’s wife and a girl who’s significance I’m not going to spoil for you here.
These characters are all mainly symbolical – if nothing else, they’re there to teach Eddie about his life, be it for the good or for the bad.
“Fairness,” he said, ‘does not govern life and death. If it did, no good person would ever die young.”
So here’s the thing: this book could easily have been incredibly heavy. The author might have opted to describe the idea of life after death in a much more philosophical way. The way he opted to go instead made for a very fun read.
The prose was fairly light for its topic, while the flashbacks were welll placed and allowed for a better understanding of the present. The narrating voice was just present enough, and I couldn’t help but like and feel for Eddie.
At the same time, there were definitely some parts where the entire thing felt just a bit too belligerent.
Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to.
However, I ended up finding those quite easy to forgive. The rest of the story was just too good!
The author didn’t make life easy on himself, choosing such a difficult subject. The way he tackled it, however, made for a read that had me, at times, both laughing and crying.
No story sits by itself, Sometimes stories meet at corners and sometimes they cover one another completely, like stones beneath a river.
No matter the subject, this is a book you’ll be able to get through fairly easy. At the same time, though, it will definitely make you stop and think sometimes. I can honestly say that when I first read it, as well as when I reread it more recently, it left me feeling kind of unbalanced. It somehow changed the way I looked at my world, even if just for a little bit. And that’s probably the biggest complement I can give any book!