By: Jinan Al-Harthy
Eddie is a maintenance guy at Ruby Pier, an amusement park he'd visited every weekend as a child, and worked in almost all his adult life. Having outlived everyone he'd ever cared about, Eddie is killed on his 83rd birthday trying to save a little girl from a deadly accident. The first 20 pages or so track Eddie's last hour alive. He then proceeds to heaven, where he consecutively meets five different people who have been long dead, but have once-upon-a-time impacted his life, one way or another. Through flashbacks and stories entwined in stories, viewed from different angles, they one by one help him reflect on his life and understand certain events that were always a source of confusion and constant nuisance for him. After all Eddie's emotions are drained and doubts cleared, he finally drifts into a setting of his choice- his very own heaven. He there rests in peace, awaiting the death of an earthly being, whom he would, in time, be one of "its" five people, sharing with "it" a lesson on life and finally getting his closure.
Personal opinion: Writing this review, I realised how gloomy this book must sound. However, it was surprisingly fresh and colourful for a book about death and dying. It has its dark moments of course; war, child abuse, sacrifice and cancer, but it is also full of ferris wheels and birthday cakes and wedding celebrations. The idea of this book is quite interesting. I continue to be fascinated by the different unorthodox interpretations of heaven different books and movies have to offer, and The Five People you Meet in Heaven is not an exception. Having said that, however, I'm not sure the story itself has lived up to my expectations. Although simply told and easy to follow, the story wasn't well-developed. I found it to be rather slow-paced and lacking in depth and substance, and it did not have a distinct identity. It just wasn't sad enough, or funny enough, or frustrating enough. It felt like I was reading one of those inspirational Chicken-Soup-like self-help books, only it failed to inspire, or, for the most part, touch me.
Rating: 4/10. A plot with good potential but a lot more could have been done to develop it.
Recommendation: Someone looking for a quick read and a book that is often featured as one of the top 100 most popular novels. Only a couple of hundred pages long, it shouldn't take you more than a few hours to go through and cross off that list.