After finishing the very enjoyable Snow Falling on Cedars, I stood in front of our bookshelves for a while but felt uninspired as to what to read next, so I did what I often do at such points: I picked a short ‘filler’ option to read whilst I decided exactly what it was that I really wanted to read.

In the past, this tactic has occasionally resulted in me discovering some little gems that I might not otherwise have read. sadly, that was not the case here.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

At the start of the book we meet Eddie, an aging fairground ride maintenance man. Then, on a seemingly normal day, there is a problem with one of the rides, and suddenly a little girl’s life is in danger.  Eddie manages to intervene just in time and ends up saving the young girl’s life, but he loses his own in the process. After this event, the remainder of the book details the experience Eddie has in the afterlife, where he meets five people who, in some way or other, had an impact on his life.

As Eddie spends time with these characters, discussing the key event and the people involved, he learns more about his life and about himself.

The novel is fairly simple in structure and focuses on just a few main ideas. Through meeting his five people in heaven, Eddie begins to see just how inter-connected everyone is and how each moment can carry a significance not understood at the time. Also, whilst Eddie thinks that he has never really achieved much and that his life has been a bit of a failure, he is shown the positive impact that his life has actually had.

Now, If this all sounds a bit like George Bailey’s experience in It’s a Wonderful Life, then, um, well, I suppose that it is. Insofar as the plot goes, that is. Sadly, whilst the tale of George Bailey’s life and his journey of self discovery is handled brilliantly in a story brimming with charm and drama, this tale, frankly, is not.

I’m sure that there are many people who enjoyed this book, but for me it was all nice platitudes without any actual substance.