in which people are met, stories revealed

…and not much else.

I am willing to accept that I may be in the minority of people who are not completely enamoured with Mitch Albom’s novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven, but I must tell it like it is, and that is how it is. It is reassuring, however, to find that I’m not the only person to think that this was just ok, and nothing more (based on GoodReads reviews).

Apparently TFPYMIH spent over 90 weeks as a number 1 best-seller. Yes, that sounds excessive, and I’m not sure if the source was correct or what list this was, but either way, it has been a best-seller for multiple weeks, which is no small measure of astounding to someone who thought it was just ok.

In case you’ve never read or heard of the book before, it is essentially about a grumpy old man who dies, and then he meets some people (five to be precise) in an afterlife purported to be heaven. These people reveal some revelatory truths to him about his life, and how he has affected other people’s lives. It sounds very wonderful and amazing and kind of philosophical — reflecting back on one’s life, understanding that one cannot see the ripples of one’s actions in the moment — but it kind of felt like Albom was trying too hard.

I’ve read other reviews on GoodReads that say this book was too preachy, and I think that TFPYMIH might have failed to capture my attention and failed to excite me because it was kind of like “preaching to the converted”. I already think and reflect on these things, and I try to have consideration for how my words and actions may affect other people.

There is certainly a greater number of positive reviews on GoodReads (and probably in the literary-review-world at large), and it looks like a lot of people were very moved by the story, and felt changed in some way after reading it, so I guess I can’t say it wasn’t a good book. It just wasn’t for me.

I’ll give him points for having quite an original plot and story, but that’s about it. The characters seemed cliched and lacked depth, and I think that’s the main reason for my disconnect with this novel. When I think about the books I really like, I find that they all have characters I empathised with and was invested in for one reason or another. That just didn’t happen here, and is probably why I took so long to finish reading it, despite the fact that it’s such a short book.

I’m not even sure I’d recommend this book to anyone. I think there are better novels out there if you’re looking for something to make you value your life, and appreciate the interconnectedness of all lives.

10 thoughts on “in which people are met, stories revealed

  1. Um, yes.😐 I wasn’t on-board with this book either. You’ve articulated its weaknesses well. I wonder if it’s a good idea just generally, to be skeptical of anything (in the culture these days) that captures the attention & approval of the masses.

    • Yes, indeed, one must be careful and discerning of any hyped-up media.
      On the other hand, it’s a relief to have one’s opinions validated by like-minded people 🙂

      • Definitely! And like you, I enjoy people who *consider* their opinions, who neither automatically like – or automatically dislike – things because they’re popular/mainstream.

  2. I remember seeing that book in the store, but walked on by. I am like you in that I need to empathize with someone in the story for me to want to read a book. I could tell that Mitch and I were not two peas in a pod. Still it was popular and many people will read any book that is dubbed popular just so they can say they’re with it. I’m rarely with it.

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