Mitch Albom, the author of The Five People You Meet in Heaven, delivers a novel which questions the idea of life after life.
In The First Phone Call from Heaven, select inhabitants of Coldwater, Michigan start receiving brief, often cryptic, calls from loved ones who have died. Some in the sleepy little town look forward to the calls, taking solace; others find them much too emotional and avoid them. Some choose to keep their conversations secret, but folks like Katherine Yellin—a 46 year-old divorced mother—believe the calls received from her beloved, deceased sister must be shared. When Yellin goes public, others, too, come forward until the mysterious communications from the afterlife grab worldwide media attention, turning Coldwater into a circus-like, pilgrimage destination.
Religious and anti-religious wrestle with the implications, along with skeptics like local resident Sully Harding, a former pilot whose wife died while he was serving prison time. The single father's heartbreaking back-story figures prominently into the suspense of the plot. When Sully's seven-year-old son expresses a longing to receive a call from his own deceased mother, Sully sets out on a quest to prove the phone calls asserting that heaven exists are all a hoax.
Albom's ensemble cast of characters reflects varying attitudes, fears and hopes of people coping with guilt, grief and loss. Interjected throughout the briskly paced narrative are details of Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone, what it meant for his own life and its context in the modern world. Albom's dialogue-driven story culminates near Christmas. The story ultimately becomes a social commentary about human connection, encouraging readers to question the meaning of their own lives, faith and beliefs.
Harper, $24.99, Hardcover, 9780062294371 , 326 pp
Publication Date: November 12, 2013