The end is not the end

The First Phone Call from Heaven
Mitch Albom

They teach you, as children, that you might go to heaven. They never teach you that heaven might come to you.

I’m known as a pretty persnickety reader. I do mid-list fiction with a little dose of literary fiction thrown in. That’s about it. You know, books that are well-written-never-gonna-be-a-best-seller good. (I like Wikipedia’s definition because it sounds really important: “complex, literate, multilayered novels that wrestle with universal dilemmas”!) I don’t do romance (although I guess Philippa Gregory’s Boleyn novels would fall into that category–oh, and I did read *blush* the50 Grays!) Mysteries are out, as are vampires and zombies. Even most chick lit doesn’t do it for me. So some of my favorites are waaaaay out in left field. Like Jan Karon (I love me my Father Tim and Cynthia) and … yep, Mitch Albom.

Surprisingly, I didn’t really like his first: Tuesdays With Morrie.  Maudlin, with dialogue that couldn’t possibly be genuine. I liked the sentiment, mind you. But the writing? Ugh with a capital “U”. (What makes my reaction even worse is that I inherited a signed copy when I got married.)  For some reason, though, I turned around and read The Five People You Meet In Heaven. And I liked it … without reserve. The dialogue is still a little dicey for my taste; the syntax a bit too Hemingway-without-the-Hemingway-magic. But the premise? Totally up my alley–just how my minds spins its free time.

So when Amazon offered me The First Phone Call From Heaven for a ridiculously low price (sorry, Mr. Albom) I bit. And, again, totally up my alley, but not quite in the way I expected. Chapter one, “It was the day the world received its first phone from heaven. What happened next [Albom adds] depends on how much you believe.” Tess Rafferty gets her call: from heaven, from her mom; Jack Sellers gets a call: from heaven, from his fallen soldier son; Katherine Yellin gets a call: from heaven, from her mother. Chapter two, we meet Sully Harding ex-fighter-pilot-cum-ex-con-cum widower who needs a call, for God’s sake, but will he get one?

And so it goes. Nothing too complicated or cerebral. Simply, who will get a call next and is. it. real? Which, of course, is exactly what we’d all be asking and is the pull of this story. The media shows up and mucks around a little. Sully Harding (hardened, as it were, by his life’s sad turn of events) mucks around a little. Dear Reader, you’ll get your answers.

Or will you? Albom’s mind spend its time turning over the same questions I do, so, while not my mid-list literary fiction, it was a satisfying read. And sometimes that’s enough.

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