Mitch Albom is a very celebrated author and is best known for his book “Tuesdays with Morrie” which was basically like entries in a diary. It was a non fiction book recounting the meetings he had with his dying Sociology Professor. But, i’m not here to speak about this book.

A very well known author by now (5 people was written after Tuesdays) he jumped headlong into the world of fiction and after 6 years “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” was released. This book was a great success and its statistics agree with me:p

5 People has sold over 10 million copies; translated into 35 languages and was finally made into a movie of the same name starring Ellen Burstyn, Jon Voight, Jeff Daniels and Michael Imperioli. The book begins from the end. It begins when its protagonist, Eddie, is just about to die and from there it sways into flash backs and present with aplomb. Eddie is an injured war veteran and is currently working at Ruby Pier as a maintenance man.

Ruby Pier

Eddie dies in a freak accident where he is trying to save a little girl from a falling cart. The one question that is haunting as he steps into “Heaven” is, “What happened to the girl?” Eddie meets people in heaven who refuse to answer his directly but do give him a great insights as to how and what has affected his life, or how he has affected theirs, whether directly or indirectly.

Eddie meets “The Blue Man”; His WWII Commander; a lady called Ruby; his wife and a young girl called Tala! Eddie learns something profound from each and everyone. He realises that his life was interconnected not only to his own fate but also to the fates of others. People we don’t even know have minor, sometimes cataclysmic, ramifications in our lives. Right from being a mere indirect audience to an act to being the direct participant of an accident Eddie sees it all. He realises the power of forgiveness and the effect it has on ones life. He realises what a simple gesture can mean and how easy it is to fall in love with someone.

From his commander he learns that things that happen in your life are only controllable to a certain extent. Beyond which they are just meant to be. Eddie has a lot of difficulty accepting the point of view but only until he meets little Tala.  She tells Eddie about herself and how her life was affected by the actions of Eddie. Consciously or not, it did have devastating ramifications.

The entire sequence between Tala and him is touching indeed.

We judge our surroundings as promptly as we clap our eyes on it. Its so sad that we are harshest with the people we love the most. We take them for granted almost all the time! If only we knew what that person ACTUALLY means to us we’d never end up doing that.We so easily slander and rebuke our peers, friends, relations and, most of all, unknown people. We learn very late in our lives that the most difficult thing to emulate is to be another person than ourselves. Eddie learns just that and guilt takes over. He realises that one act of his father was enough for him to forgive him and to say sorry. If Eddie knew about it he’d have reconciled much much earlier.

Albom tells a tale of empathy and of love through such a different platform that its difficult to not accept it. More than the story, more than the writing style what captivated me was the theme and the message Albom tries to convey. The entire idea of knowing exactly why your life took the turn it did and what  a certain act supposed to mean from your private armchair. Albom is basically repeating the age old funda of love and empathy and understanding and the most basic parameter that life is not meant to be understood. Its meant to be lived by rules and righteous behavior for we cannot control the adversity that life throws at us.

No matter how far ahead we plan we cannot forget the fact that our death lies just a step out of the door. Here you plan for a large family and there your future husband just got run over by the mail man’s truck! Ignorance is indeed bliss up to only a certain level. Beyond which we are not meant to question the way things work out. It is only the hard way we learn that there is a higher authority that decides what we do. There is a reason to everything. We just don’t know it.

I loved his message but I cannot say the same about his writing. It wasn’t bad, mind you, it just did not make me fall in love.

Albom deserves an applause for his insight and insidious clarity which creeps on you and gives you a smile at the end.

– Siddiqui F.

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