The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel by Mitch Albom. It follows the life and death of a maintenance man named Eddie. In a heroic attempt to save a little girl from a falling amusement park ride, Eddie is killed and sent to heaven where he encounters five people who significantly impacted him while he was alive. The Five People You Meet in Heaven was published in 2003 by Hyperion and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 95 weeks.
The book starts with an elderly man named Eddie who works as the head of maintenance at an amusement park called Ruby Pier. Eddie is able to perform this job despite leg injuries he received as a soldier during World War II. On Eddie’s birthday, one of the amusement park rides malfunctions because of a damaged cable and stops halfway through the ride. Two of the staff at Ruby Pier are able to rescue the passengers on the ride and then release the ride’s cart not knowing that there is a little girl under it. Eddie attempts to save the girl who was sitting under the roller coaster ride. Eddie then finds himself awake and uninjured and realizes that he feels young and much more energetic. He meets a man dubbed as “The Blue Man” who had worked at Ruby Pier’s freak show and whose real name is Joseph Corvelzchik. Through their conversation, Eddie finds out that he is dead, has gone to heaven and has to meet five people who significantly impacted his life.
He also finds that the reason he feels so much younger is because he will feel as old as he was when these people came into his life. Eddie asks why Joseph, whom he does not know, is his first person and Joseph informs Eddie that he died when Eddie ran across the street as a child and caused Joseph to wreck his own car. From this, Eddie learns his first lesson which is that there are no random events in life and all people are connected in some way. The second person that Eddie meets is his former captain from the army who Eddie finds sitting in a tree in a Philippine rainforest. The captain reminds Eddie of their time together as prisoners of war in a forced labor camp. Their group escaped after a lengthy period of time and burned the camp. Eddie remembers that he had seen a shadow running from the hut that he was setting on fire although he had never found out who the person was.
The captain confesses that he was the one who shot Eddie in the leg to prevent Eddie from chasing the shadow in the fire. This saved Eddie’s life while leaving him with the lifelong injury. The captain later died when a land mine exploded when he was scouting ahead during the escape, saving the lives of the group. Eddie learns his second lesson about the importance of people’s willingness to make sacrifices for others. The scene changes and Eddie finds himself outside a diner where he meets a well dressed woman named Ruby. Ruby tells Eddie that she had once worked as a waitress at the diner and explains that Ruby Pier was named after her by her husband Emile who built it in tribute to her. Emile was wounded while fighting a fire that burned much of Ruby Pier and later died from failing health.
Ruby confesses that she picked the diner because that was where she had met Emile and wanted the diner to be a refuge for anyone who had ever been hurt in any way by Ruby Pier. Eddie’s father, who had been a very harsh and abusive man, is also at the diner. Ruby teaches Eddie to release his anger and forgive his father for all the trouble and hurt he had caused. Eddie now awakens in a room with several doors. Behind each of the doors there is wedding from a different culture and Eddie meets his late wife, Marguerite, in one of the weddings. They spend an extended period together, moving from one wedding to the next and catching up on all the things they had not been able to share since Marguerite’s death.
They remember their own wedding and in the end, Marguerite teaches Eddie that love is never lost in death. When Eddie awakens to a new scene, he sees children playing along a riverbed and a young Asian girl named Tala comes up to him. Tala reveals that she was the little girl from the hut that Eddie set on fire. The girl shows Eddie the burns that she suffered from the fire. She hands Eddie a stone and tells him to rub the burns off. Eddie starts to scrape off the injuries he had inflicted on her and soon Tala is free of the scars.
Eddie believes that he failed to save the little girl from the amusement park and remembers feeling the girl’s hands in his just before his death but Tala says that it was her hands that Eddie had felt as she pulled him safely up to heaven. In reality, Eddie did manage to save the girl at Ruby Pier. Tala teaches Eddie that his life was not for nothing and that its purpose was to protect children at Ruby Pier through his care for the safety of the rides. In this way, he also atoned for causing Tala’s death. In the end, it shows that Eddie’s heaven was the Stardust Band Shell, where he met Marguerite. He is also one of the five people to be met by the girl whose life he saved when she dies.
Eddie – He is the head of maintenance at an amusement park named Ruby Pier. He is 83 years old. He is a “squat, white-haired old man, with a short neck, a barrel chest, thick arms, and a faded army tattoo on his right shoulder.” Marguerite – Eddie’s wife who he met at Ruby Pier and married after returning from World War II. Eddie would always remember “her waving over her shoulder, her dark hair falling over one eye.” has “olive skin” and “dark coffee eyes.”[ She dies at the age of forty-seven of a brain tumor. Joseph Corvelzchik, The Blue Man – Joseph’s skin had been turned blue when he was a boy because of repeated ingestion of silver nitrate, thought to be an effective medication at the time. Handicapped by this disfigurement, Joseph eventually made a life for himself at Ruby Pier. Joseph is a “middle-aged man with narrow, stopped shoulders, naked from the waist up. His belly sagged over his belt. His hair was closely cropped. His lips were thin and his face was long and drawn.”
He dies of a heart attack because of Eddie, when he tried to get a ball off the streets. The Captain – Eddie’s commanding officer at war. He has a “full head of dark hair” and looked to be “only in his 30s.” The Captain saved Eddie’s life by shooting him in the leg. He died by stepping on a land mine while checking to ensure there was a clear path ahead for his men. Ruby – A woman for whom Ruby Pier is named by her fiance Emile. Ruby’s face was “gaunt, with sagging cheeks, rose-colored lipstick, and tightly pulled-back white hair.” She wore “wire-rimmed spectacles over narrow blue eyes.” She wore “a dress made of silk and chiffon with a bib-like bodice stitched with white beads and topped with a velvet bow just below her neck.” Her skirt had “a rhinestone buckle and the snaps and hooks up the side” while also holding a “parasol with both hands.”
She was a widow in her fifties. Emile – Ruby’s husband, who also created the original Ruby Pier. He wore “a chalk-stripe suit and a derby hat.” He had neatly cut dark hair and a mustache that covered a constant smile. Emile was known for “his heavy, confident laughter”and being “a spender and a risk taker.” He was injured in a big fire trying to save Ruby Pier from being destroyed. Eddie’s mother – Eddie’s mother was known for her tenderness” towards Eddie and Joe. She lived in a daze after the death of Eddie’s father. Eddie’s father – He abused Eddie his entire life.
He smoked cigarettes and was a card player. Eddie’s father was remembered for his “discipline,” “violence,” “denial of affection” and “silence.” He dies at the age of fifty-six of pneumonia. Mickey Shea – Mickey Shea is a family friend. He worked with Eddie’s father “fixing rides at Ruby Pier.” Mickey is “fat, wears suspenders and is always singing Irish songs.” Dominguez – Dominguez is Eddie’s friend and coworker at Ruby Pier. He is “a lanky, bony-cheeked young man.” He is planning to go to Mexico with his wife Theresa. Willie – Willie works the Freddy’s Free Fall at Ruby Pier.
Amy – Amy or Annie is the “little girl with a pipe-cleaner animal.” She is standing on the “ride’s metal base” that one of Freddy’s Free Fall’s carts comes crashing down on. Eddie saves her by pushing her legs. Tala – Tala is a young girl Eddie sees in a burning hut. She is a Filipina, maybe five or six years old with “a beautiful cinnamon complexion, hair the color of dark plum, a small flat nose, full lips that spread joyfully over her gapped teeth, and the most arresting eyes.” Allusions/references to other works – There are several instances where Eddie hears the opening lyrics of You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It) in memory of his wife, Marguerite. Themes -No random acts in life Forgiveness Power of love. Overall theme is No random acts in life—