by Srivalli Rekha
You might wonder why I picked up a book such as this when the current global situation is quite dreary. That was my exact reason. The book came up in some FB discussions and intrigued me. It was quite a small one, and many readers mentioned that the book was a fast read. It also has a sequel, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven.
The book leaves you feeling nice and positive. It’s like taking the load off the shoulders for a while. But unlike others, I found that I could not read it in a single stretch. In fact, not even every day. I spaced the book put by reading novellas in between.
The writing style is different. It’s not heavy, yet it’s not casual either. You won’t cry buckets, nor will you stay unmoved by the plight of the characters. The book deals with the life story of Eddie, an 83-year-old war veteran who dies and goes to heaven. It also shows how many threads are used to weave the quilt of a life.
But the book is not for everyone. No single book can be liked by every person, and this is no exception. Some find it highly philosophical and even preachy. While I do agree it tends to be a wee bit preachy, given the topic, I'm happy with how it worked out.
Eddie works on the maintenance team in Ruby Pier, a carnival ground. He is responsible for the maintenance of Freddy's Free Fall, one of the major attractions of the place.
The storyline is non-linear and goes back and forth, depending on the people Eddie meets in heaven. The opening begins at the end, announcing Eddie's death and goes back in time to the start of the day with Eddie's birthday celebrations are in the present tense. Each part shows how his life changed from one year to another.
Two things that make the book stand out is the description of heaven and the concept of knowing the truth about certain things after we die. This may not appeal to everyone.
Heaven in this book had been modeled as an illusionary replica of the earth. Depending on who Eddie meets, the setting changes to the relevant location and period.
This makes it easy to connect to the backstory and to understand the characters. But this may also annoy readers as it clashes with the personal idea of how heaven should be.
We notice four major emotions in the book- Eddie's dislike and hatred for his father, his unending love for his wife, Marguerite, his demons from the war, and his concern about the little girl he tried to save during his dying moments. Did he or did he not save her? The answer to this question comes when he meets the fifth person.
Each person teaches Eddie a lesson. Sacrifice, acceptance, letting go, forgiveness, and power of lost love are highlighted. It also highlights PTSD and how it can cloud a person's life forever. Eddie finally learns to let it all go after he meets the fifth and most crucial person.
The book also talks about the violence and abuse of kids at home. Not just Eddie but another vital character as well.
While the book preaches forgiveness, I'm not sure it can happen when one is alive or at least that's what the book makes it seem since Eddie has to die before he can forgive the person who caused him so much pain.
I don't wish to go into detail about each lesson. But I'll share a few quotes I loved.
“All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”
“There are no random acts...We are all connected...You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind...”
“People say they 'find' love, as if it were an object hidden by a rock. But love takes many forms, and it is never the same for any man and woman. What people find then is a certain love. And [he] found a certain love with [her], a grateful love, a deep but quiet love, one that he knew, above all else, was irreplaceable.”
“In order to move on, you must understand why you felt what you did and why you no longer need to feel it.”
My favorite part of the book is Eddie's love for his wife. It's the kind that stays with us long after it's gone. They face many troubles, but their love keeps them together. Even when they drift apart emotionally for a while, their love brings them back together.
I've been told that the sequel rounds off this book even better and I'm inclined to agree. I'm half done with that one. The books should be read together for them to make the most sense to the reader.
In the sequel, Eddie waits to meet the next person he has to talk to in heaven and explain the unknown to that person. Here starts another life story, but as they say, the threads are interconnected in the most unexpected ways.
About the Author: Srivalli Rekha is a blogger, writer, and amateur photographer. She got a degree in MBA and MA English Literature and chose to become a writer and a poet instead of a corporate professional.