The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Hyperion (September, 2003)
I know; I also dissed Og Mandino’s The Choice. And I’m about to diss this major bestseller that practically everybody gushed about. It wasn’t bad; it was just, uhm, obvious. Obviously trying to make you cry; obviously trying to make a character out of the dramatis personae. The brave soldier, the perfect romantic partner, the formulaic flawed hero.
It was a take on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Albom’s main character, Eddie, dies and meets 5 people who have some — direct or indirect — connection to him. Of course, there are moral lessons, most of them obvious because the characters are given to lengthy monologues. Preachy and prone to excessive moralizing. Because it’s heaven, there’s not much movement.
I first heard about this book from Kris Aquino. No, I don’t know Kris personally; she just happened to mention it in her TV show. She yakked about the fact that the last person the main character meets in heaven is a Filipina girl. Of course, she gushed about how the book was great and how it made her cry. So far, I haven’t completely agreed with any of K.A.’s opinions.
I must say I was able to see the film version before I got to read the entire written work. So Eddie is Jon Voigt, Ruby is Ellen Burstyn. Unfortunately, the girl they chose for the Filipina girl role is not really Filipina, or if she is, she isn’t from the Philippines. She pronounce “baro” as “barow”; “ina” with an accent on the first syllable rather than on the second. It was Tagalog with an American accent, which wasn’t at all what the story intended to portray her as. It wasn’t a Filipina-American who got burned; it should have been a homegrown gal. Too bad.
The film version was as didactic as the novel. It dragged on without anything interesting happening. Yakkety yakkety yak. I only stuck till the last part because I wanted to see how they portrayed the Filipina girl. And again, I was disappointed.
I don’t believe anybody should write an inspirational book. I believe inspiration should come from the bare basics, the life that we live. No one should cull any moral lesson from life other than those that they’d personally use. If they want to disseminate inspirational information, live a good life and let others learn from it. Don’t write a book; don’t stand in front of thousands at the Yankee stadium and rattle off about how your life has changed. As in fiction, the rule that “don’t tell, show” also applies.
My doubt about organized religion goes along this line of reasoning, but that’s another critique. And I’ve deviated too much already.