Reviewed by Chris Loza
THE NEXT PERSON YOU MEET IN HEAVEN
By Mitch Albom
224 pages. Harper.
I read The Five People You Meet in Heaven back in 2006 along with C.S. Lewis’s personal reflections on death, A Grief Observed, and Joan Didion’s chronicle of her annus horribilis, The Year of Magical Thinking. I experienced a deeply personal tragedy; a loss in the family, and my reality then was inescapably painful. C.S. Lewis’s book was insightful. It talked about the things I wanted to say about grief. Didion’s account captured the insanity of coming to terms with the death of a loved one, a shell-shocked response in the aftermath of a catastrophe. Albom’s book provided the hope that felt so elusive at that time.
Twelve years later, he’s back with a sequel, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven. I read this with the memory of the first book, not the plot or the five people Eddie met in heaven, but the brokenness I was in—and how the years had only dulled the grief but never fully healed it. I remember the story of Eddie, how he died in the most horrific way, like a bug crushed, saving a girl named Annie.
This is Annie’s story now—what has become of her life after the second lease given to her. The story unfolds in a nonlinear fashion, starting at the end and turning back the time to tell the mistakes that Annie made all throughout her life. Here, she meets her five people in heaven. They show Annie her life from their perspective, widening her understanding of the world she thought had treated her so cruelly. Each of them shares a lesson from their life to Annie.
This book is a story of redemption and acceptance, of learning to see the beauty of mistakes, or as the book says, mistakes that lead you to the right things. Compared to the first book, this is not as straightforward. There is a small twist towards the end such that the book becomes more than a book on death and the hope of the afterlife, but one that encourages forgiveness and celebrates the invisible strands that connect all life. People have to die so that others may live. To live with purpose and to live with passion. It is a good reminder of how precious life is and how fragile.
Albom writes with an elegant touch on such a grim matter. He peppers the book with insights and wisdom reminiscent of his first book, Tuesdays with Morrie. He had become more confident with the world he had built; creating an eternity, a heaven that is wonderful and magical. The chapters are short and concise that it’s easy to finish it in less than a day.
This book can be read as a standalone even if you haven’t read The Five People You Meet in Heaven. Eddie’s and Annie’s stories are different and, though they are linked, their lives are separate meeting only at that point of Eddie’s death. Still, hopefully, this gets you to pick up that book, because each has a story to tell and each has something to say to us. While the first book gave me some measure of hope in one of the darkest periods of my life, this sequel gave me a deeper appreciation of life, of appreciating our flaws and our mistakes, the brevity of our life, this journey we are on, and the heaven waiting for us with the people that mattered to us.
Chris has written on Wattpad, yellowpads, and notepads. A few of his articles are in the dusty archives of Inquirer’s Youngblood and Philippine Star’s My Favorite Book, while one story got lost among the Kindles on Amazon. He works as a Systems Administrator by day and a recluse at night. You can reach him on Twitter and Instagram @cd_loza.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]